In Berlin yesterday one could attend a very challenging musical event in the Staatsoper. It started with Feldman's opera „Neither“ on the big stage with the orchestra of the Staatskapelle and the marvellous soloist Laura Aikin who mastered the very demanding part in a perfect way. It is good to see that a singer who has achieved the glamour of a star, still is available for a repertoire off the mainstream – Stockhausen with some of his singers had experiences quite different! Feldman's music in this masterpiece often seemed to touch more than in other works of his the style of minimal music, but excelled in an abundance of musical colours, often quite sinister. The impression was rather static, somehow claustrophobic; there was no development, patterns being shifted to and fro, but with a maximum of inner differenciation. After that you could continue going into a smaller room for experimental productions; inspired by the young conductor Adrian Heger, a collaborator of the Staatsoper, there was a programme mainly of piano music by Stockhausen. Very adequate and interesting it began with Beethoven's „Grosse Fuge“, arranged for 2 pianists by the composer himself, even for now a bizarre and extreme work of nearly obsessive energy – forming a radical change from the sound-world of Feldman. But a perfect transition to Stockhausen. First Heger played KLAVIERSTÜCK V in an amazing elegant way, then KLAVIERSTÜCK IX; for me the sensuality and the integrity of this highlight was not totally matched by the pianist. But maybe I suffered from an expectation that was too tight. And finally, after REFRAIN, we heard No 24 of NATÜRLICHE DAUERN, played by Frank Gutschmidt. That was the absolute highlight of the concert – you could hear a master who performed the long and multifaceted work by heart, with absolute presence. He absolutely knew what he was to play and therefore the listener easily realized the connection of the different parts of the work, and each part was played with its own colours, its own tempo and its own spirituality. Really a highlight and again it was evident how decisive it is for the presentation of Stockhausen's work that the interpreter totally delves into the world of the composer. And I thought: Very well done that Stockhausen did not cling to his own idea that piano music had come to an end; we could hear that that definitely is not the case! Also interesting that even now, years after Stockhausen's death, the public was really young, also compared with the Feldman-part of the evening... And interesting to realize how different his spiritual world is from Feldman's – much more Beethoven in it! Thanks the stimulating progamme-planning everybody could hear this!
I do not know the Feldman work, but your description of Natural Durations 24 as the highlight of the programme that followed interests me. I have no doubt that Frank played the piece as you describe, "with absolute presence". I have heard him play Bach's Goldberg Variations in just that way, as well as many of Stockhausen's piano works (especially memorable performances of the Klavierstücke X, XII, and XIV, as well as several portions of Natürliche Dauern). Although the 24th Natural Durations is a substantial piece in itself (at more than a quarter of an hour), I wonder how much of your admiration of this performance was conditioned by knowing (as I know you do) the entire cycle of Natural Durations, since this last part of it is a mosaic of all the preceding 23 pieces. Do you think that other members of the audience, who had never before heard any part of the Third Hour of KLANG, may have been just as thrilled with Frank's performance? Or does a real appreciation of this final number of the set require knowing the pieces it summarizes?
Jerry, I must confess that I am not such an expert of NATÜRLICHE DAUERN, as you expect. I have listened to the cycle 2 or 3 times, but for me it always takes more time to really become acquainted to a work like this. That is a pity, but sometimes there is also an advantage going with it: In this performance in Berlin I did not have any special expectation, simply because I did not remember what should happen. Maybe that is due to the fact that the whole work is such a big one, that when part 24 begins in a performance of the complete work, the ability to listen is already a bit damaged. When I listened to Gutschmidt's performance, what came to my mind was an association like: "moment-form", a sequence of sections, that existed for their own - no idea how valid that thought is, when you go into the score analytically. But be that as it may - I realized: When a performance is really sensitive, with many colours and possibilities to differenciate, and when the soloist obviously is able to find out sense in the work, in every part of it, then there is sense and beauty and you are fascinated. I had the impression that the audience felt like that, obviously my wife, too - but for her it was not the first encounter with this part of KLANG, too.
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!