Karlheinz STOCKHAUSEN(1928-2007) 12 x 12 - A Musical Zodiac
Tierkreis, op.41 (1974-75) [37:34] With interpolation of material by Machaut, des Molins, Ciconia,
Pykini, da Bologna, de Cluny and anonymous composers [38:37]
Capilla Flamenca; Het Collectief
ec. deSingel Arts Campus, Antwerp, Belgium, October 2010. DDD ETCETERA KTC 4042 [76:11]
Is this the way into Stockhausen for newcomers, or for those
who have previously tried and failed? This enterprising CD combines
one of the composer's most accessible and popular works, the
twelve zodiac pieces originally for musical boxes that constitute
Tierkreis, with songs and instrumental pieces from the
1300s, an astonishingly avant-garde period known as Ars Nova
and Ars Subtilior.
Sometimes the works are discrete, but often they are melded
seamlessly into one another or even alternate sections in quick
succession. Stockhausen leaves the detail to the performer,
concentrating himself on the conceptualisations. Despite the
outwardly simple idea - a character piece to represent each
mystical Sign of the Zodiac - when it comes to intricacy,
Stockhausen never disappoints. In Tierkreis tone rows jostle
with arithmetic-based rhythms in typically modernistic density.
Het Collectief and Capilla Flamenca, specialists in contemporary
and early music respectively, are free to improvise and do so
with gusto, and must indeed take some of the credit for the
basic ear-friendliness of the overall effect of this recording,
Stockhausen's occasional 'proper tunes' notwithstanding. Furthermore,
the fourteenth-century pieces chosen by the performers add further
dimensions of variety and colour to the soundscape, bevelling
the angularities - most of them! - inherent in Stockhausen's
maths-driven directions. In fact, a good deal of intelligence
lies behind their selections, and in juxtaposition similarities
between Stockhausen's music and that of the Ars Subtilior composers
especially are striking.
Questions will linger in many minds as to the depth of artistic
merit of Tierkreis - in some regards, it is more about
calculation than inspiration, and Stockhausen's basic music,
over which performers are free to elaborate almost freely, amounts
to a maximum of 25 minutes or so. Yet whether or not Stockhausen
was as important to music history as his disciples insist, Tierkreis
has plenty to offer the curious ear, and in this deluxe version
by the splendid Capilla Flamenca and Het Collectief the listener
gets an aural treat of uncommon fascination.
Sound quality is very good too; as atmospheric as the music
itself. The booklet notes offered in English, French and Dutch
are detailed and informative. The short essay by Elise Simoens
is well written and flowingly translated, but that by Jean-Marie
Rens is rendered into English by a non-native speaker and comes
across, consequently, as blather - one particular sentence runs
to almost seventy words, divided into clauses by seven commas!
In a sense the notes give too much away, laying bare the hubris
of Stockhausen's method. As such, they are probably better reserved
for reading after listening. Full sung texts are thoughtfully
provided, with good translations into English.
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