This summer there were some main events concerning Stockhausen: AUS LICHT in Amsterdam, SAMSTAG in Paris and the Kürten Courses that ended on Sunday. Some of us had been sceptical concerning the courses: Would there be enough interest, sufficient time to prepare everything? Indeed there were notably less participants this time – also in some concerts more empty seats than usual; but in the final INORI nearly everything was occupied. But in spite of all this again it was a concentrated time packed with many great and rewarding events: As usual the master classes, the lectures by Stockhausen-specialists, the rehearsals and concerts, and in addition two ongoing seminars, on diphonic singing taught by Nicolas Isherwood, and on MIKROPHONIE I by Michael Pattmann. And the opportunity to talk with many like-minded people! What I did not expect: This time the highlights were the students-concerts. Therefore at the end three prizes were given by the Stiftung to really outstanding performances. The first prize won Simon Smith for his presentation of KLAVIERSTÜCK XIII (LUZIFERs TRAUM). Everybody in the hall realised: This was a unique performance – also Kathinka Pasveer and Suzanne Stephens said, they had never heard this work this way. I myself heard several performances of this piece and spent some time with the score – but after the first minute I asked myself: Is that really the work I have heard before? In this powerful presentation everything sounded fresh and new – fascinating. Sometimes I was reminded to the world premiere of KLAVIERSTÜCK X played by Frederic Rzewski, this overwhelming virtuosity – but Simon played his piece more concious to the form of the work. A recording should be made and I would love to listen to a life performance by Simon again! Similar the interpretation of IN FREUNDSCHAFT for Saxophon by Yui Sakagoshi, also vivid and powerful and really new. It was especially interesting, because there was another presentation of the work in a version for recorder, played by Veronica Tollenaar, also very good. One could realize that performing with a different instrument creates a very different piece, also a unique experience. So everybody present in Kürten left the courses with a whole variety of great experiences – and quite exhausted because of the intensity of these days – and grateful.
Thank you for these reflections on this year's Kürten Courses, Thomas. This is very much how it was for me, too. This year the week seemed to pass incredibly quickly, and I am sure someone stole a few days when we weren't looking - the final day had arrived much earlier than it should have!
I agree with your assessment of the concerts and Simon's performance of KLAVIERSTÜCK XIII was truly astonishing: with such technical accuracy and yet full of drama and intensity. It was riveting and I am sure no one who heard it was in the least bit surprised that it received first prize. And he performed from memory too! I was also very impressed by Laura Faoro's performance of KATHINKAs GESANG with electronic sounds, and it made me love this version of the piece even more than I did before - a quite different experience to the original version with percussion. I was utterly carried away by both versions of IN FREUNDSCHAFT and, like you, learned once again to appreciate what a different experience this piece is on different instruments. Veronika's performance on recorder had such a warmth to it, but of course Yui on saxophone was also amazing. Of the students who did not receive prizes, the outstanding performances for me were Ivan Pavlov doing KLAVIERSTÜCK XIV and Gabriel Jones doing KLAVIERSTÜCK VII. But everyone did amazing work and, for me, seeing so many of Stockhausen's pieces performed to such a high standard is a hugely uplifting experience.
Of the non-student concerts, Johanna Stephens-Janning doing WOCHENKREIS with Roman Rofalski was an absolute standout - so full of warmth and character. I can never hear Ellen Corver playing MANTRA often enough, and I loved the different perspective that Adrian Heger brought to it this time as her partner. FREUDE was of course as uplifting as it always is when Marianne and Miriam perform it.
The final concert of INORI moved me to tears, even though, for me, nothing will parallel their performances with full orchestra.I had watched Jamil and Emmanuelle perform it together in Lucerne, and also Winnie and Diego, also in Lucerne as well as in Berlin, but this was the first time I saw all four together, other than in some of their earlier rehearsals prior to Lucerne. I have always found the approaches of each pair quite different but equally valid: it is, to me, as if Jamil and Emmanuelle speak INORI through the voice of Apollo and Diego and Winnie through that of Dionysus. Both seemed present and yet united in their performance on Sunday night. I found it very powerful.
It was in all respects, I thought, a superb nine days of Courses and Concerts. As always, there is more happening than it is possible to attend, but I found everything extremely stimulating and valuable, and I learned much as I always do. For me, too, the conversations, friendships, and connections that form informally and unexpectedly are equally valuable. I am home now in Australia after ten weeks of music throughout Europe - including Aus LICHT in Amsterdam and SAMSTAG in Paris, and am jetlagged quite badly, but still floating on the Kürten cloud!
It's so nice to be amongst people who also love Stockhausen's music.
Besides the ongoing workshops Diphonic singing and Mikrophonie I, there was the reprise of Alain Louafi's Inori class. In order to get a better understanding of Inori (which always was rather boring to me), I met this class and I might say not without result; when I go on with listening to the music and practising the gestures, I might learn to appreciate the piece.
About Lucifer's Traum played by Simon Smith: I heard him playing Klavierstücke V, VII, IX und XIII in 2012, in the St Micheal and All Saints, Edinburgh [GB], couple of days before Birminghams Mittwoch; und ich war begeistert!
Problem of summing up highlights is that there are so many, you'll always miss some of the unforgettable performanes. For me Hitioshi Tamada did a great job in Die sieben Lieder der Tage; I love the way he is combining his singing with his movements. Two years ago he did a marvelous performance of Tierkreis. But there are so many more great performances that could be mentioned!
I totally agree with Ellen - summing up the performances is almost impossible and, for me, this year was even more difficult than others to single out the highlights. Every time I mention something, there are others that spring to mind.
I think this year in particular we have a lot to be thankful for in this regard. Many of the people involved in teaching at the Courses, and most of the people involved in organising them, had already been extremely busy over the past several months in the preparations for and performances of Aus LICHT in Amsterdam, and yet still managed to put together an exciting programme of concerts, to work brilliantly with the many participants who came there to learn, and the result was a series of days where things ran very smoothly and that magical sense of community and welcome that we have at Kürten seemed to permeate everything.
There is such a sense of eagerness to learn there, and the courses offer so many ways to do this: by participating in classes, by watching them, by attending the seminars, by watching rehearsals, and by simply sitting around and talking to others who share the eagerness to learn and discover. I enjoy very much the opportunity to hear perspectives on the music, especially from those who grew with the pieces, and collaborated with Stockhausen during their composition and first performances. It is a wonderful thing to see these pieces, and the knowledge about them, being passed on to more and more people.
Of course this sometimes means that new people lead to new directions that can take the music, or ideas about it, into unexpected places. And there will always be debate about when this is good and when it works against the music. But I find Kürten to be a place where those debates, when they happen, happen with respect, goodwill, and encouragement, even when the discussion gets a little animated as it sometimes does. I hope we can always maintain Kürten's very special energy where our aims, both shared and individually, are to understand, know, and experience Stockhausen's music better and more deeply, rather than to win prizes or arguments.
That said, I must also say that this year all of the prizes were, in my opinion, very richly deserved, and all of the arguments were, in a sense, won by everyone who engaged in them: because we all had the chance to share and to learn. Preparing for performances, and engaging in debates about important ideas, can feel stressful at the time, but the enthusiasm and warmth of Kürten, always nurtured so lovingly by its organisers, ensures that the experience is overwhelmingly a good one from which we all learn and by which we are all inspired. I am immensely thankful for that.
I was struck by the fact that, for the first time in many years, the prizes were "ungeteilt" (undivided). Whereas the former practice (endorsed by Stockhausen himself) arguably created a greater sense of community, it also diminished the significance of the awards. I wholeheartedly agree with the decisions made for the awards this year. Simon Smith's performance of Klavierstück XIII was without question the outstanding example of the lot, even though many other participants (even beyond the prize-winners) turned in amazing performances. The purpose of the Courses, announced already at the outset in 1998, to encourage and promote interpretations by younger interpreters, has been fulfilled beyond expectation at this year's courses. I feel privileged to have taken part, not only as a seminar presenter, but also as a witness to the continued success of the presentation of virtuoso performances by the course participants.
Well, I can't really comment on my own performance except that I'm glad it seems to have been well received!
The best thing I saw (of the participants) certainly was Kathinkas Gesang, which was brilliantly performed and was a revelation to me as, while I'd heard the version with electronic music on CD, I had no idea how great it would sound 'in the flesh'. So that is definitely one for me to get to know better.
Gabriel Jones' Piano Piece VII was another highlight for me. It is my favourite of the earlier pieces and impressive to see it played from memory with such obvious clarity and precision. (I only played XII and XIII from memory because the score says you should; it's by far the most stressful aspect of playing those pieces and for a piece like VII, where it isn't necessary, I can't imagine I'd ever put myself through it.)
That's before we even get onto the 'official' concerts which were, as others have observed, an embarrassment of riches. I might pick Pietà as a highlight, if I really had to mention just one. One of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.
I concur with everything that both Jerry and Simon said and would also like to mention, as Simon did, PIETÀ. It is one of my very favourite moments in LICHT and, indeed, in all of Stockhausen's music, and Pia Davila's singing was utterly beautiful. She captures, I think, the transition from mourning to hope with such seamless poetry. Marco of course plays the flugelhorn part wonderfully, but I would also have loved to have had the opportunity to again hear Valentin Francois do it, which he so marvelously did in Amsterdam. He brought a certain rawness to the part which for me was extremely powerful, and I very much hope that we get to hear the two of them perform it again before too much longer.
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!