Sequenza II

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Sequenza II is a composition for unaccompanied harp by the Italian composer Luciano Berio. Written for and premiered by the French harpist Francis Pierre in 1963, it has since been performed and recorded by Frédérique Cambreling, Susan Jolles, and Claudia Antonelli, among others.

As with most of the Sequenze, Berio sought to explore the timbral and expressive capabilities of the harp in the hands of a virtuoso musician. Because of this, Sequenza II defies many of the stereotypes associated with the harp. In the liner notes of the 1999 Ensemble InterContemporain recording, Berio wrote of Sequenza II, "French impressionism has left us with a rather limited version of the harp, as if its most obvious characteristic were that of lending itself to the attention of loosely robed girls with long blond tresses, capable of drawing from it nothing more than seductive glissandi." Sequenza II has its share of glissandi, but also calls for harmonic tones and extended techniques such as percussive effects (on the wooden body of the harp), as well as a virtuoso amount of pedal-shifting and an extreme sensitivity to rapid dynamic changes.

Sequenza II has been analyzed[who?] as a contrast between the linear aspects of music (i.e. melody, counterpoint) and the vertical aspects (i.e. chords, percussion). For example, the opening flageolet melodies and glissandi have a much more linear character than the staccato tone clusters and percussive knocks which occur later on.

In 1964 Berio composed Chemins I by adding an orchestra to Sequenza II.


  • Berio, Luciano. 1999. Sequenzas. Ensemble InterContemporain (including Frederique Cambreling, harp). Deutsche Grammophon. 3 CDs,
  • Berio, Luciano. 2006. The Complete Sequenzas, Alternate Sequenzas and Works for Solo Instruments. various performers (including Susan Jolles, harp). New York: Mode Records. 4 CDs, Mode 161/3.

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