Stockhausen: Michaels Reise

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COMPOSERS: Stockhausen
LABELS: ECM New Series
WORKS: Michaels Reise
PERFORMER: Markus Stockhausen (trumpet); Nine co-players/Karlheinz Stockhausen (sound projection)
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 1406 DDD
Michaels Reise is a ‘soloists’ version’ of the second act from Stockhausen’s 1978 opera Donnerstag (part of the Licht cycle) adapted for performance by a small touring ensemble. As in the opera, there are solo parts for trumpet, basset horn and two clarinets but the original 28-piece orchestra is here replaced by trombonist, flautist, two percussionists and two synthesizer players.

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The narrative structure remains intact. Michael, one of Licht’s central characters and here represented by a trumpet, undertakes a journey around the world, stopping at set ‘stations’ to engage in musical dialogues with the other instrumentalists. Later Eve, another Licht protagonist, appears in the guise of a basset horn. She duets with Michael and entices him away. Finally the pair return and their music floats around the stage while ‘droplets of sound’ from the other players gradually fade out.

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If the earlier parts of Michaels Reise offer a fascinating, multi -timbral quilt, demonstrating yet again Stockhausen’s masterful manipulation of sound, it is the later duets between Michael and Eve, lush and sensuous, that are truly gripping, not least for some beautiful playing from Markus Stockhausen and Susanne Stephens. The intense, finely honed lyricism of their exchanges makes Michaels Reise one of Stockhausen’s more readily enjoyable discs. Graham Lock