When I start practising Sequenza VI from the beginning, I can never make it to the end — but when I’m standing on stage in front of an audience, the adrenalin kicks in and I can’t stop!
I’ve had a relationship with Luciano Berio’s Sequenza VI for viola for the past 20 years. I first learnt it in 1993 for a series of concerts in Spain and afterwards a man in the first row asked me, ‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’ It’s an incredibly demanding piece — I get a sense of physical achievement and pride whenever I play it — but unlike many other modern works it’s stayed with me, in a way that I could play it again on just a week’s notice.
It’s a very physical piece, and there’s certainly some muscle training involved before you can play it, both in the hands and in the back. But it’s also extremely lyrical, harmonically rich and song-like. To me it’s like Bach, in that every time I come back to it I’m able to find a deeper layer of meaning — it’s like a photo in developing fluid, gradually becoming clearer. There’s a great deal of tremolo in the piece, but somewhere in the middle the tremolo stops and it becomes more like a concertino — very light and playful, with dancing passages.
I find that when I start practising Sequenza VI from the beginning, I can never make it to the end — but when I’m standing on stage in front of an audience, the adrenalin kicks in and I find I can’t stop!