Sequenza IV

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Sequenza IV for solo piano (composed in 1965–66, revised in 1993) is the fourth in a series of solo Sequenze by Luciano Berio that started with the publication of Sequenza I for solo flute (1958; rev. 1992).


The opening chords present all the pitch materials of the piece. They are of two kinds: (1) "resonant" chords made by superposing two major, minor, augmented, diminished triads (sometimes with an added seventh or ninth), to form basically "harmonic" structures, and (2) "anti-resonant" or "noisy" chords based on chromatic relationships and containing a large number of seconds and fourths, giving them a more "inharmonic" character (Guigue and Onofre 2007, 210). These chords are progressively horizontalised, creating "a syntactic flux between structurally opposite and intermediate constituents" (MacKay 1988, 223). The resulting opposition between chords and fast, single-voice chromatic figures resembles the compositional alternation of clusters and melodic gestures in Karlheinz Stockhausen's Klavierstück X (Guigue and Onofre 2007, 210).

The treatment of tempos also serves to govern the overall form. There are three types of tempo usage (Thomas 2007, 199):

  1. a single tempo is used for a long span of music, providing a sense of stability, stasis, or even tension
  2. different independent tempos governing short gestures are juxtaposed within a single section
  3. the tempo is made to accelerate or decelerate to underline the particular gestures

The chordal opening soon dissolves into the turbulent "centre" of the piece, featuring tremolos and bursts of notes within a narrow registral span. There are also single notes and small clusters covering the piano's entire range. Concealed beneath this active surface of this section are repetitions and extensions of the chords from the beginning of the piece constituting a long repeated pitch sequence (containing internal recurring sequences). These relationships become more evident as the turbulence subsides toward the end of the section, finally coalescing into a conclusion of staccato chords similar to those at the outset of the Sequenza (Flynn 1975, 418).


  • Flynn, George W. 1975. "Listening to Berio's Music". Musical Quarterly 61, no. 3 (July): 388–421.
  • Guigue, Didier, and Marcílio Fagner Onofre. 2007. "Sonic Complexity and Harmonic Syntax in Sequenza IV for Piano". In Berio's Sequenzas: Essays on Performance, Composition and Analysis, edited by Janet K. Halfyard, foreword by David Osmond-Smith, 209–32. Aldershot, Hants; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishers. ISBN 9780754654452.
  • MacKay, John. 1988. "Aspects of Post-Serial Structuralism in Berio's Sequenzas IV and VI". Interface—Journal of New Music Research 17, no. 4: 224–38.
  • Thomas, Philip. 2007. "Berio's Sequenza IV: Approaches to Performance and Interpretation". Contemporary Music Review 26, no. 2 "Contemporary Performance" (April): 189–205.

Further reading[edit]

  • Doll, Zoe Browder. 2007. "Phantom Rhythms, Hidden Harmonies: The Use of the Sostenuto Pedal in Berio's Sequenza IV for Piano, Leaf and Sonata". In Berio's Sequenzas: Essays on Performance, Composition and Analysis, edited by Janet K. Halfyard, foreword by David Osmond-Smith, 53–66. Aldershot, Hants; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishers. ISBN 9780754654452.
  • Hermann, Richard. 1995. "Theories of Chordal Shape, Aspects of Linguistics, and Their Roles in Structuring Berio's Sequenza IV for Piano". In Concert Music, Rock, and Jazz since 1945: Essays and Analytical Studies, edited by Elizabeth West Marvin and Richard Hermann, 364–98. Eastman Studies in Music, no. 2. Rochester: University of Rochester. ISBN 1-878822-42-X.
  • Miller, Robert. 1979. "A Style Analysis of the Published Solo Piano Works of Luciano Berio, 1950–1975". DMA diss. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, Peabody Institute.