Omaggio Berio – Sequenza 2 & 3

“Sequenza Concert 2”

Sequenza XIII – accordion
Sequenza VIII – violin
Sequenza XI – guitar
Sequenza IXb – alto saxophone

“Sequenza Concert 3”

Sequenza XII – bassoon

[NB Sequenza X – trumpet (Gabriele Cassone) – not performed in “Sequenza Concert 2”]

Teodoro Anzellotti (accordion)

Franceso d’Orazio (violin)

Eliot Fisk (guitar)

Claude Delangle (alto saxophone)

Pascal Gallois (bassoon)

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 24 April, 2004
Venue: Purcell Room, London

“Sequenza Concert 2” – so called – followed on its predecessor in the Duke’s Hall and should have given us all but two of the series not already heard during the “Omaggio” retrospective (Sequenza III, for voice, heard twice). (Andrea Lucchesini was due to play Sequenza IV, for piano, on the 26th in Duke’s Hall; and the bassoon Sequenza had an airing to itself.) But the eleventh-hour indisposition of Gabriele Cassone left the cycle bereft of Sequenza X (1984). Not wishing to be wise after the event, but as the piece is likely to have been tackled by most younger players of graduate level and above, was it really so difficult to find a replacement trumpeter – even at such short notice?

And the, in itself unobjectionable, decision to have soloists illuminated by a single shaft of platform light, coupled with an audience determined to arrive after each piece, meant a considerable amount of ‘groping around’ (I use the phrase advisedly!) between Sequenzas – which, added to some confusion among the musicians as to which exit they should use, gave the recital a somewhat farcical air at odds with the seriousness of the music. South Bank front-of-house – kindly take note!

This was more the pity, as the performances could hardly have been bettered. Teodoro Anzellotti brought intimate intensity to the ‘popular’ (never populist) undertones of XIII (1997), while Francesco d’Orazio’s account of VIII (1976) – laminating its polyphonic investigation of violin techniques onto a chaconne format – was nothing short of superb. Eliot Fisk was equally commanding in XI (1988), interweaving the classical and flamenco aspects of its discourse with enviable flair and skill. Claude Delangle then ended proceedings with the cool melodic contours that are the basis of IXb (1981) – sounding even more insinuating in its alto saxophone incarnation than in the clarinet original (which had been played the day before).

The Sequenza cycle was concluded (albeit in theory!) with a late-night performance of XII (1995) – the longest and most discursive of the series and – along with Sonata Concertante by Nikos Skalkottas – the most sustained exploration of bassoon technique and timbre yet written. Pascal Gallois took its formidable demands in his stride, riveting listeners in a piece that takes the instrument into musical territory where it might not reasonably have been expected to go.

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