Stockhausen’s Klang – Savouring Eternal Moments

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La Scena Musicale's Discovery Box

The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) has contributed significantly to the dynamic of the local new music scene. While doing its part in getting more original music out in the world, this organization sets that stage by reviving masterpieces of 20th-Century music through events of its own like Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques (MNM). The festival theme this year is grands espaces (open spaces), a most suitable one for Karlheinz Stockhausen, a visionary whose music will be heard in the weeks to come.

“To me, Stockhausen’s name rhymes with open spaces,” states Walter Boudreau, MNM headman and artistic director of the SMCQ. “I mean, who else had the nerve to write a string quartet for helicopters or operas as long as Wagner’s?”

In late February, Montreal will witness the Canadian premiere of the German composer’s penultimate work, Klang, a cycle of pieces that spans 13 hours. “Klang, in my view, is comparable to Bach’s Art of the Fugue,” Boudreau says. “All of his artistic concerns are there, those regarding time, melodic development and rhythm. For anyone wanting to discover his world, this is almost a no-brainer. Listening to it is like following a long and winding road, and it ought to be recognized for what it is, his greatest musical legacy, or testament if you will.

“But the path he sets out on is anything but conventional for a concert hall setting. Klang is a totally immersive experience in the composer’s own space-time. Stockhausen, it must be noted, planned to write 24 pieces for the cycle, one for each hour, but passed away in 2007, after completing number 21, Paradies.”

The Montreal premiere takes place at the Société des arts technologiques (SAT) and will be performed in three spaces simultaneously. Listeners are invited to wander between rooms at their leisure. New York’s Analog Arts Ensemble will be joining a cast of Montreal players in an event that will also have its share of surprises. One of these is the humongous percussion instrument called ‘Heaven’s Gate’, a contraption that looks like a cathedral door just unloaded from a flatbed truck. All told, Klang promises to be a defining musical moment this year, not just for MNM but for the music scene as a whole.

Translation by Marc Chénard

Performances are slated for Feb. 28 and March 1 from 10 p.m. to midnight without intermission. The SAT has all the amenities (restaurant, café, parking) to make the experience that much more listener-friendly and to give us the added incentive to dive in even deeper into the sonic universe of that a cosmic traveler sans pareil and restless inventor of eternal moments: Karlheinz Stockhausen. www.smcq.qc.ca

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About Author

Benjamin Goron est écrivain, musicologue et critique musical. Titulaire d’un baccalauréat en littérature et d’une maîtrise en musicologie de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, il a collaboré à plusieurs périodiques et radios en tant que chercheur et critique musical (L’Éducation musicale, Camuz, Radio Ville-Marie, SortiesJazzNights, L'Opéra). Depuis août 2018, il est rédacteur adjoint de La Scena Musicale. Pianiste et trompettiste de formation, il allie musique et littérature dans une double mission de créateur et de passeur de mémoire.

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