After two weekends of Stockhausen's music in Lucerne, I thought I would just post here some short thoughts about the experience and how it impressed me. Of course, coming from Australia, where Stockhausen is performed so rarely, anything feels special to me but, even so, I thought this festival was, for the most part sensational.
I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Pierre-Laurent Aimard's interpretations, and I found his MANTRA, with Tamara Stefanovich, and his KLAVIERSTÜCKE I - XI, maybe a little lacking in the dynamic diversity and articulation that is always so important in Stockhausen. But even though it lacked a few of the nuances that I would have loved to have heard more clearly, he did a pretty phenomenal job of impressing everyo with KLAVIERSTÜCK X, even though that was probably more attributable to Stockhausen's spectacular writing.
I felt he was more impressive in KONTAKTE, but probably for me the highlight of that concert was Dirk Rothbrust doing ZYKLUS and Helga Karen's stellar role in holding everything together so magnificently from the piano in REFRAIN. I would have loved to have heard her doing KONTAKTE, where she performed so spectacularly in Kürten in 2015.
GRUPPEN was sensational, although the tempi were rather slower than what I think Stockhausen asks for in the score, but the power and wonder of the piece, as the three orchestras share and shape that endless variety of sound-groups in an endless variety of trajectories and patterns, was still, for me, captured superbly.
But the undoubted highlight of everything was, for me, INORI. I could write forever about that. Both pairs - Diego Vásquez and Winnie Huang first, and Jamil Attar and Emmanuelle Grach second, were amazingly powerful and beautiful and, perhaps most importantly of all, musical - and, despite each dancer and each couple performing the piece with astonishing precision, they also each, as individuals and as couples, brought something unique to the piece. To me, that's what INORI is about - a world of diversity, everyone traveling their diverse journeys of whatever they conceive spiritual growth to be, brought together by the universality of INORI. These four soloists worked so hard and for so long on this piece, and their efforts rewarded us all. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
The Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra was sensational, and I think it has become my new favourite orchestra. Such a strong bunch of young musicians. gathered from around the world, clearly so open and enthusiastic to take on the challenges of new and adventurous music. This is something that I think is often lacking in some of the world's more established orchestras.
INORI will be done again in Paris on 14 September with Jamil and Emmanuelle, and in Berlin on 18 September with Diego and Winnie. If there is any way you can get to either or both, you really should, I will be going again to the performance in Berlin.
So - just a few rushed thoughts, far from doing justice to two incredible weekends.
Thanks, Ian. Fortunately we in Berlin have the priviledge to experience this whole programm here again, except GRUPPEN; thanks to Winrich Hopp, who manages the Berliner Festwochen. I look forward to that. I should add: It is also the initiative of Wolfgang Rihm, that INORI could be performed and trained, and I agree: It was a very impressive performance. It makes a difference when the work is performed with such a big orchestra, and the conducting of Peter Eötvös is simply brillant!
Yes, I was astonished at how much of an impact the live and large orchestra had on me for INORI. I attended quite a few rehearsals and it was a wonderful thing to watch the piece grow in the hands of these musicians who were so eager to learn its very unique challenges. I will also be attending the performance in Berlin on 18 September, where Diego and Winnie will perform for the first time with Eötvös conducting. It has been a challenge for the dancers, too, having worked for so long with the tape, and then needing to quickly become accustomed not only to the live orchestra but, throughout the rehearsals and performances, four conductors! But what a powerful piece it is, and the utterly profound solemnity of hearing the melody of the formula for the first time in full, about forty minutes into the piece, rising from the depths of the orchestra, and then that moment of great awe when then dancers finally stand up to that huge and brilliant crescendo! It is as if in that moment Stockhausen created for us a glimpse of the light that LICHT would later send us forever spiralling towards!
I attended the Berlin performance. The last time I heard the piece was in 1998 with Karlheinz Stockhausen conducting at the Herculessaal in Munich. Twenty years! What happened in all these years, what changed? Let us see. I start with the positive aspects which are musical ones. Eötvös was great, he succeeded in controlling the tempi so well that the performance that lasts about 70 minutes according to Stockhausen Verlag lasted slightly more than 60 minutes which is what Stockhausen wanted (one minute formula spread to one hour). The two dancers were perfect, it was a great joy to see a new generation performing this difficult part. And the orchestra! I hope it was no suggestion but I heard that the musicians played with ease. There was no paralytic struggle with the new score. These musicians are used to these sounds. Of course, this gives the performance a more classical than avantgarde touch. But this is okay after 44 years... The negative aspects are the aspects of the public and the media. The hall was not sold-out. I was astonished that Berlin does not honor such an undertaking. And the reason is clear. Stockhausen spoke of an 'atheistic city' and he was right. What I had to read in the newspapers the following days is terrible. One can find it all in the internet. The journalists could not find a 'sense' in the piece, they did not know 'which god' was worshipped, they accused Stockhausen of mixing 'mythology and music' (??), they heard boring didactics at the beginning of INORI and bad polyphony at the end. And so on. All this mixed with poisoned praise. On my side, a journalist was sitting sleeping all the time, at least closing his eyes all the time. At the end, he made some notes on a sheet of paper and jumped out of the hall without clapping his hands. I could not identify him, I did not find his critique. But I think that most of the journalists have the same quality. Shame.
I would like to relativize the contribution of Adorján on INORI in Berlin. According to my impression the big hall of the Philharmonie was well filled. A friend of mine with a small budget who wanted to buy on the evening a cheap ticket, had to go home; these seats were sold out. All four concerts in the Berlin festival with Stockhausen have been (according to the Berlin standard) very well attended, and the big hall of the Philharmonie is a very big place. So I myself was quite surprised and content. The reviews have been mixed, some without any understanding, full of prejudice, others very well (FAZ). The performance was impressive, as always, when Peter Eötvös is conducting Stockhausen. But, compared with Lucerne, for me the tempi this time have been too fast; thus the very good mimes sometimes made the impression of being forced to perform their part quite mechanical, to cope with the tempo of the orchestra. The work consists in 60 units to approximately 1 minute each, but Stockhausen wrote in his Lecture on HU that the whole work is still 9 minutes longer (approximately 70 minutes) because of an inserts, of ritardandi and fermatas. So that seems to be an indication that Eötvös' tempi this time have been very fast, for me too fast. But, that always is a quite subjective impression. Finally there has to be the expression of gratitude to Winrich Hopp, the chief manager of the Berlin festival, for this outstanding programme!
Dear Thomas, thank you for your "relativisation". It is a pity that we did not meet there in the Philharmonie. You surely saw that all the places behind the orchestra were empty. It is possible that this was deliberate. But on other occasions, these places were sold even when there was something to see from ahead like in this case. With regard to the tempo, you are right that Stockhausen planned a slower tempo. I have to correct myself. Nevertheless, I re-heard the performance (I recorded the program of DLF Kultur two days later). It is overwhelming, beautiful, great. An interesting case of violation of "Werktreue" by an old pupil of Stockhausen. Now what is to be done?
I am pretty sure that the decision to not sell the seats behind the orchestra was deliberate - or at least it should have been! It would be a huge loss to attend INORI and not see the soloists who are, of course, so essential to the piece. It was, at least, very heartwarming to see such an enthusiastic audience, many of whom I am sure did not know what to expect but who, I think, were deeply moved by the power of the performance.
I agree with Thomas that Peter Eötvös took many of the speeds too fast, and I think also some of them a little too slow - but that might be more of a problem with my recollection than with him! I think he clashed even with Stockhausen on some of these issues, but to me it is a serious issue because the serial scale tempi is so important, and so making changes there is really the same as playing the notes at the wrong pitches. I felt similar issues arose in some of Pierre-Laurent Aimard's piano pieces in Lucerne.
But even so, with all those issues, it was for me an overwhelmingly powerful experience. The soloists were incredible - portraying, I felt, both the human and the spiritual elements of the work with such poetry and eloquence. They conveyed, I thought, the sense of growth and struggle that I feel is an important part of INORI: the human craving for meaning and connectedness beyond the confines of a singular, material life, out of the darkness, and into the light: majestic, terrible, and quiet, all at once. To me (and I know others disagree with me a little on this) this is a universal human thing - as much for the atheist as for the theist - seeking that light through whatever means: prayer, meditation, adoration of the physics of the cosmos, the beauty of nature, the love of humanity. There are so many paths to it, and I see them all there in INORI. So hopefully even atheist Berlin can love this music as profoundly as anyone else! It is a shame if some reviewers were not able to hear the work more openly,.
The performances I saw, both in Lucerne and in Berlin, will stay with me, deeply treasured, forever. I am mightily grateful to everyone involved in making it all possible. They worked so very hard.
I feel that it could be useful to have a discussion-forum on the music of Stockhausen. There are so many people from all over the world, young and old, learned and eager to get into contact with this musical world: musicologists, composers, musicians, music lovers; people who plan concerts - who write books or have to give lectures and so on. So there should be much stuff, many ideas that we can share. And when we have open questions, there may be people who studied just that and could give a hint or a stimulus.
A problem might be the English language, but i feel that is the only possibility that many people who are interested can participate. And we can exercise tolerance to mistakes!