Karlheinz Stockhausen: Tierkreis

two realizations of Stockhausen's beautiful "12 Melodies of the Zodiac" – one composed, one improvised for trombone, accordion, cello, double bass, and drums with Mike Svoboda - trombone, music boxes, tapes, and musical direction

stockhausen: leo (excerpt)

stockhausen: leo for five improvisors (excerpt)

concert program

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) - Tierkreis - 12 melodies of the star signs (1975-76)

1. realization  for trombone, accordion, cello, double bass, percussion, and music boxes
2. realization  for five improvisers, music boxes, and tape

duration 75 minutes without an intermission

CD available: Karlheinz Stockhausen: Tierkreis

Tierkreis: a classic played like a standard

Tierkreis of 1975–76 is one of the most beautiful, and hence one of the most accessible, works in the oeuvre of the Cologne composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who is both celebrated and hotly debated as a “classic composer of New Music in Germany” after 1945. Mike Svoboda, having collaborated with Stockhausen for many years, had already had several opportunities to realize the work beautifully as an arranger. In his current homage to Stockhausen he presents two very different solutions that in concert nonetheless fit together into a compelling whole: an instrumentation for chamber quintet that remains true to the original as well as an improvisational variant that treats the model like a standard from the “real book” of jazz. With this creative maneuver Svoboda and his musicians demonstrate once again that “New Music” and “dry as dust” need not necessarily remain synonyms. Precisely because of its liberties Tierkreis is a welcome extension of the performer’s possibilities, a rewarding task beyond mere display of virtuosity, explains Mike Svoboda, who collaborated directly with Stockhausen when he prepared his first instrumentation of Tierkreis for trombone and piano in 1988 and again in 1991 when he produced his second for trombone and percussion. His solution for trombone and large brass ensemble (1995) was followed, on the occasion of Stockhausen’s seventy-fifth birthday in September 2003, with the two present variations, recently documented on WERGO in a new CD produced in collaboration with Deutschlandradio in Cologne. The unmistakably sterling musical quality of this dual result is owed above all to Svoboda’s inner knowledge of the music, an internalization of it that was achieved through years of working on it. The demands that Stockhausen places on the ‘working out’ of his model are extremely high: he hopes the performer can provide a clarification of his composition. Tierkreis is thus no platform for virtuosic self-display. Without a doubt, the composition stands in the foreground. When working out what became the first version here, my desk was covered with plans for the distribution of the instruments, registers, timbres, and densities. And yet my work was not essentially different from that of an improviser. In what became the second version here, I presented the musicians with several structures and asked them to improvise on Stockhausen’s melodies. The performance criteria specified in the score that any performance be faithful to the written notes is met here with the help of a prerecorded tape accompaniment and the use of the original music boxes. Each of the Tierkreis melodies is heard several times, establishing the original tempo. I combined the melodies of Tierkries in groups of three according to the seasons; and the players improvise on a group, on a “quarterly basis,” as it were. The creative freedom that Stockhausen offers the performer in specifying how performances are to be worked out are fully exploited for the first time by means of the improvisational approach. Mike Svoboda - April 2003

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