Berio Sequenza Xi Analysis Essay

Between 1958 and 2002, Luciano Berio wrote fourteen pieces entitled Sequenza, along with several versions of the same work for different instruments, revisions of the original pieces and also the parallel Chemins series, where one of the Sequenzas is used as the basis for a new composition on a larger scale. The Sequenza series is one of the most remarkable achievements of the late twentieth century. It is a collection of virtuoso pieces that explores the capabilities of a solo instrument and its player, making extreme technical demands of the performer whilst developing the musical vocabulary of the instrument in compositions so assured and so distinctive that each piece both initiates and potentially exhausts the repertoire of a new genre.The Sequenzas have significantly influenced the development of composition for solo instruments and voice, and there is no comparable series of works in the output of any other composer. Series of pieces tend to be linked by the instruments for which the composer writes, but this is a series in which the pieces are linked instead by the variety of instruments for which Berio composed. The varied approaches taken by the contributors in discussing the pieces demonstrate the richness of this repertoire and the many levels on which Berio and these landmark compositions can be considered. Contributions are arranged under three main headings: Performance Issues; Berio's Compositional Process and Aesthetics; Analytical Approaches.

Sequenza XI for solo guitar (1987–1988) is one of a series of Sequenzas by Luciano Berio. Written for the American guitarist Eliot Fisk, it is an innovative investigation into the dramatic and virtuosic possibilities of musical performance.


The composition is in four large sections, and sets out from the six pitches of the open strings of the guitar. The composer asserted that two intervals are important elements in the work: the perfect fourth (which is the interval found between most neighbouring pairs of the guitar's strings) and the tritone, which leads to a different harmony of Berio's devising (Porcaro 2007, 258–59).


Sequenza XI is a standard work for guitarists who have chosen avant-gardemodern classical music as a part of their repertoire, e.g., Denis Sung-Hô (Sequenza's performance with members of the Ensemble InterContemporain), Stefan Östersjö, Todd Seelye, Mats Scheidegger, Geoffrey Morris, Pablo Gómez, Pablo Márquez, Alan Thomas, Jürgen Ruck, Nico Couck, etc.: it has been recorded numerous times (see below).

Chemins V by Berio is a work by Berio based on Sequenza XI, for guitar and ensemble.


  • Porcaro, Mark D. 2007. "A Polyphonic Type of Listening in and out of Focus: Berio’s Sequenza XI for Guitar". In Berio's Sequenzas: Essays on Performance, Composition, and Analysis, edited by Janet K. Halfyard, 255–74. Aldershot (Hants.); Burlington (VT): Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7546-5445-2.

External links[edit]

Sequenza XI performances (mp3, etc.)[edit]

Sequenza XI recordings[edit]

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