The webcast of the world première of LICHT-BILDER

Before listening to the CD from Stockhausen-Verlag, upon which I became enthusiastic right away, I had heard the webcast of the world première, and from this the work had made a mixed impression. There were some new musical features, but overall it did not strike me as particularly exciting. I did, however, think at the time that there might be something wrong with the recording balance, and my assumption has been confirmed upon hearing the CD, in a more dramatic way than I had anticipated. The webcast put the tenor into the foreground, and the three instruments more in the background. This separation between vocals and instruments made the fracturing of the tenor’s lines seem rather odd. In stark contrast to this, on the CD all four voices are equivalent in terms of recording balance – since Stockhausen directed and mixed that recording, obviously this is the way he envisions the music. It is therefore also likely that the balance of the webcast of the world première had nothing to do with Stockhausen's actual sound projection in the hall during the event.

The results of the respective recordings are that on the webcast we have a leading voice (tenor), backed up by three-voice polyphony, whereas on the CD it is a four-voice polyphonic fabric – an enormous difference in musical concept. Perhaps the sound engineer of the recording of the world première had in mind a more conventionally ‘operatic’ balance of singer as lead voice with instrumental accompaniment. Yet it is a fact that the parts for tenor and trumpet, as well as basset-horn and flute are composed to form pairs – how can tenor and 
trumpet act as a ‘pair’ if they are not sonically integrated? The webcast was thus a failed recording, and it is no exaggeration to say that those who have experienced the work only from there have been thoroughly misled about its nature.

© Albrecht Moritz 2009