Kagel’s The 8 Pieces of the Wind Rose by Ensemble Aleph

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mauricio Kagel
LABELS: Evidence Classics
WORKS: The 8 Pieces of the Wind Rose
PERFORMER: Ensemble Aleph


The exuberant geography of Mauricio Kagel’s Pieces of the Wind Rose mirrors the composer’s boundless imagination – and his own straddling of the hemispheres: born in Argentina in 1931 to Russian-Jewish refugees, Kagel moved to Germany in 1957 where he remained an avant-garde insider-outsider until his death in 2008. These eight fantastical pieces, beautifully recorded together here for the first time, were composed between 1989 and 1994 during his turn towards a less combative, more subtly metaphysical cultural critique.

Gradually getting longer as Kagel became enraptured by the possibilities, each piece offers a dazzling, topsy-turvy musical expedition from a different location to a point on the compass for which it is named. South-West, for instance, sails from Mexico to New Zealand via Pacific islands while North-East gazes towards Brazil from southern Argentina – and, on a European train journey, East lies ‘somewhere between Trans-Carpathia and the Gulf of Finland.’ Perspectives are challenged and boundaries not so much crossed as shown not to exist.

Kagel’s soundworld is multi-hued and panoptic, beguiling and unsettling in equal measure. Witty and refined, through a wonky kaleidoscope of ragtime, tango, klezmer and oompah-inflected indigenous percussion, Ensemble Aleph thumb their noses at bourgeois Eurocentrism. They prove a wonderfully kinetic salon orchestra; swerving in a moment from ghostly fin de siècle colonialism to shamanic ritual and whirling, laughing dances. The result is a potent magic-realist brew.


Steph Power