Thomas Stevens

Berio Sequenza X (Part II)

  • For Trumpeters Only

A History of My Participation in the Berio "Sequenza X(Part II)

The idea of finally having a trumpet Sequenza was truly exciting. The solo Sequenzi were among the most challenging, cutting-edge virtuoso instrumental vehicles in the modern day musical repertoire: however, at the time, no one in the Philharmonic organization spoke openly about the commission because all too often in the music business such projects have a way of never achieving completion.
I had compiled and sent to Berio, as per his request, a compilation of written and recorded examples of some of newer technical advances that had been made by leading trumpeters, including both jazz and classical artists. We then waited to hear something from him, but there was nothing*. It started to look as if the Sequenza would never happen.
A few months later, someone saw in a print publication that the Sequenza X was scheduled for a concert in Los Angeles in two months, with me as the soloist. I asked the Philharmonic’s orchestra manager, Debbie Rutter, (Deborah Rutter, the current general director of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.) if this were true, and, if so, where the hell was the music? The very next day she got back to me with the information the music would soon be on its way.
The possibility of preparing for a world premier in only two months in the middle of an already taxing orchestra schedule seemed a rather daunting prospect at that point. We later learned that, at the time, Berio had not even begun to write the music!
A few weeks before the premier, Ms. Rutter approached me as I was proceeding towards the stage for a concert and handed me one page of the new work, which had arrived via fax and was printed on the now out-of-fashion thermal paper. During the following weeks additional pages arrived, one at a time, until finally, nine days before the scheduled premier, all of the pages had arrived in California.
Luciano Berio arrived in L.A. a few days later for a series of orchestra and chamber music concerts featuring his works, including the world premier of the Sequenza X.

* Berio later admitted that he had never looked at the materials we had sent him, and, in an interview published in the Los Angeles Times, November, 1984, he stated that, for the first time in the history of the Sequenzi, he hadn’t consulted with the performer because he had been told by many people that Stevens could play anything; so, he could write whatever he wished. (He must have consulted with my mother about this!)