Stockhausen

MOMENTE (MOMENTS), 196264/69

for soprano solo, 4 choir groups and 13 instrumentalists, with a duration of about 110 min.

The composer:

"MOMENTE (MOMENTS) for soprano solo, 4 choir groups and 13 instrumentalists was completely planned in January 1962. There are three large Moment-groups, which are framed and separated by I-Moments (relatively indeterminate, informal). The K-Moments (KLANG = timbre: verticality, homophony, regularity, noises, percussion, male voices) are always in the center, preceded and followed interchangeably by the M-Moments (MELODY: horizontality, monophony, heterophony, randomness, pitches and noises equally mixed, trumpets and trombones, soprano solo) and the D-Moments (DURATIONS: diagonality [vertical + horizontal], polyphony, irregularity ["syncopated"], pitches, electric organs, female voices).

"According to set rules, and following a form-scheme, the conductor combines the Moments to form a version. Once this order has been decided, and the corresponding performance material has been made, excerpts from particular Moments are used as Einschübe (inserts) in their neighboring Moments, so as to recall preceding material, or foretell what will follow. []

"From the "pure" Moments M, K, D additional Moments are derived, influenced by other groups (small letter in index). Two (or three) capital letters identify Moments in which the group characteristics are united in a nearly perfect balance."

*****

The Europe version heard on the CD is structured as follows:

I. I (k) Moment "For love is stronger than death", about 27 min.

II. The large group of 13 D-Moments (about 14 min.), individual Moments lasting from 11 seconds to about 1.5 min. with the exception of Moment D (about 4 min.)

III. Organ-moment [I (d) Moment], about 6 min.

IV. The large group of 9 K-Moments (about 11 min.), individual Moments lasting from 14 seconds to about 1.5 min. with the exception of Moment K (about 2.5 min.)

V. The Clapping-moment [I (m) Moment], first in backwards mode, then in forwards mode, both versions lasting 7 to 7.5 min. each)

VI. The large group of 13 M-Moments (about 25 min.), individual Moments lasting from 35 seconds to about 4.5 min.

VII. Praying-moment [I-Moment], about 14 min.

From the CD booklet to the Wergo recording of KONTAKTE, a work that is also written in moment form (the translation from the booklet is corrected here):

<<Concerning "moment form" Stockhausen said during a latenight music programme of the West German Radio in Cologne on January 12th 1961:

"During the last several years there have been forms composed in music which are far removed from the plan of dramatic directional form: they do not aim at the single climax, nor do they have prepared, and thus expected, several climaxes, and they do not present the usual introductory, intensifying, transitional, and cadential stages in a curve of development which is related to the entire duration of the work; they are rather immediately intense and permanently present endeavour to maintain the level of continued "principal things" up to the end; forms in which at any moment one may expect a minimum or a maximum, and in which one is unable to predict with certainty the direction of the development from any given point; forms in which an instant does not need to be a piece of a passage of time, a moment not a particle of a measured duration, but in which the concentration on "now" on every "now" makes vertical incisions as it were, incisions which break through a horizontal concept of time, leading to timelessness.">>

Indeed, there is no dramatic relation between the different Moments in MOMENTE, unlike between the moments in a musical movement or piece with usual linear developmental form, thus allowing for exchange of Moments with each other (see above). Also, within most of the Moments of short or middle duration there is not a conventional curve of development noticeable. All this is remarkable, and the listening experience is clearly distinct from the one with usual directional-dramatic forms.

Within the large Moments, however, especially the I (k) Moment "For love is stronger than death" and the Praying-moment (I-Moment), there seems to be an approach to dramatic development as found in other large-scale music as well, relating all the passages within those Moments with each other and allowing for climaxes related to previous passages.

The composer:
"The form of the I-Moments can be dramatic, whereas the other Moments are interchangeable in their surroundings, and on an equal footing with each other."

(Letter to the author, May 12, 2002; translation by the author from German:
"Die I-Momente können eine dramatische Form haben, während die anderen Momente ja in ihren Umgebungen vertauschbar und gleichberechtigt sind." The composer writes the capital I of "I-Moment" with a dot on top of it, see also CD booklet, a symbol not available in text programs on the computer.)

Also within the dramatic I-type Moments "For love is stronger than death" and "Praying-moment" the concept of moment form appears to play a distinguishing role nonetheless in addition to the lack of directional relation between individual Moments, required for a work with moment form.

In the Praying-moment (14 min.), the seemingly directional development may in fact not really be directional in the straightforward sense and, paradoxically, it may be in surprising agreement with moment form see the description of the Moment below.

In the long Moment "For love is stronger than death" of 27 min. duration there is a prominent theatrical storyline, a storyline that provides a pronounced beginning and a pronounced end to the Moment, and a musical motivation for a very directional build-up to an (almost) apotheotic climax towards the end. Yet even within this Moment a crucial aspect of big influence for the entire Moment is different from traditional directional form: the more intimate, quite stretched-out middle section of the Moment (about 10 min.) is far more resting in itself than one would expect from a form that is strongly directional throughout, as more traditional forms tend to be. It makes the impression to result in an oasis of timelessness.

*****

The composer about the choir:

"Each of the 4 choir groups has at least 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors, and 3 basses. In addition to all known kinds of voice articulation, the choir groups also make short or continuous noises with their feet, hands and mouths: [...]

"There is also a scale of sounds between voiceless consonants (i.e. noises not having clearly perceivable pitch) and vowels having clearly definable pitch. The scale begins with voiceless exhalation, and continues through breathing, whispering, giggling, murmuring, speaking, calling, screaming, laughing, singing.

"The choir singers also play instruments which are easy to handle."

(These mainly percussive, simple instruments are explained in detail in the CD booklet, together with photographs).

The choir singing in MOMENTE is lead by a solo soprano. Also, several choir singers have solistic roles in quite a few passages. The choral textures are highly innovative and create a tremendous wealth of musical refinement for details see my descriptions below.

Overall, in MOMENTE vocal music dominates, with the instrumental music mainly supporting it. Only in the K-Moments vocal and instrumental textures share roughly equal prominence yet even there longer stretches of primarily instrumental music are hardly present.

About the instrumental music the composer says:

"The instruments used are: 2 electric keyboard instruments having register-stops which enable very gradual timbre modulation (a Hammond organ and a Lowrey organ were available at the Cologne Radio Station); further, 4 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, and 2 bass trombones.

"3 percussionists play 1 large tam-tam (diameter: 160 cm), 1 smaller tam-tam (diameter: 85 cm), 1 vibraphone, 3 tom-toms, 5 large cymbals of various sizes (diameters between 40 and 82 cm), 5 small cymbals differing in pitch by about the same interval within [a certain] range, and a special drum with kidney-shaped head, on which all pitches within a range of 1 1/2 octaves can be played, and 3 tambourines with jingles."

The brass not only shapes at loud volume certain sections of the music, often and to an extent unusual in music it enhances the textures with soft playing. These low-level textures of the brass are impressive. Their characteristics of subtlety and novel sonic imagination later would also be found in, for example, the soft textures for solo trumpet in VISION from DONNERSTAG aus LICHT. In soft passages complex interactions of brass and organ timbres are also heard.

In general, novel imagination in sound plays an important role in all the instrumental textures, just as with the vocal music in MOMENTE. Beguiling in this respect are also the instances where instrumental sounds mimic or supplement vocal ones. A few examples:

In the Moment M, in the phrase "und labet mich mit Äpfeln" (and feasts me with apples), sung by the soprano at a very moderate tempo, the vibraphone sounds simultaneously with "und", "(lab)et" and "mich" on the same pitch as the sung notes, with slowly fading tones. The resonance which those words get by this mimicking treatment is astounding. In the Moment KM (d) the soprano shouts in a way that sounds like the war cry of a Red Indian, and this is taken over with a deceptively similar timbre and the same kind of pitch oscillations by the electric organ. And who would have thought that scratching the surface of a tam-tam could so beautifully supplement/mimic the descending soaring tones of the soprano as heard in the Moment DK (d)?

*****

The composer:

"MOMENTE is dedicated to Mary Bauermeister, who is musically "portrayed" in several Moments (e.g. in the solo of the M (m) Moment)."

Stockhausen was in love with Mary Bauermeister at the time he started the composition and later he would marry her. It is deliberate that the used texts vary greatly in content and literary quality; although they are mostly about love or about thoughts lovers share (including the Song of Salomon and a letter from Mary Bauermeister) anything could be used. In the Clapping-moment (with its clapping as in applause) and in the K-Moments (with shouts like for example "bravo, boo") even audience reactions are composed into the music (!).

Overall, the music of MOMENTE appears to be deeply imbued with an atmosphere of exalted enthusiasm, leading to strongly projected, exuberant gestures. The music thus acquires great energy as well, and a clear signature characteristic is its carefree freshness of sound.

In many passages a tremendous amount of vastly different vocal and instrumental sounds and gestures can be heard simultaneously or in close succession, leading to great density and nuance of the textures. This is a strong factor in shaping my perception of the music as being in a positive and exciting way almost overwhelming in its richness.

The complete version of MOMENTE as recorded on CD 7 from Stockhausen-Verlag is the Europe Version (1972). The form scheme and the ordering of the moments in this version are depicted in detail in the CD booklet, as are those of the Donaueschingen Version (1965) in comparison. That version of MOMENTE, which does not yet include all Moments, can be heard in an excerpt of about 30 min. duration (M-Moments plus Organ-moment) on the 2-CD set as well. A comparison of both versions gives interesting insights, since the inserts in the individual Moments are different, resulting from the different order of the Moments (alas the comparison is not quite easy since the recording of the Donaueschingen Version, in contrast to the recording of the Europe Version, misses the division into separate tracks dedicated to individual Moments).

"For love is stronger than death"

This large moment with the above title summarizes the basic ideas in MOMENTE in an extended form. In the Europe-version heard on this CD it is the opening Moment, in other versions, however, it may occur later in the work: it may change its position with the Clapping-moment, as in the 1998 version, for example. In that case, this Moment is the first Moment after the pause which separates the two halves of this evening-filling work.

The soprano, in a grand beginning of the music carried on the instrumental side by drums and electric organ, annnounces what MOMENTE is all about:

"Hört die Momente Musik der Liebe, damit sich in uns allen die Liebe erneuere die Liebe, die das ganze Universum zusammenhält."

("Hear the Moments music of love, so that in all of us love may renew itself the love that keeps the whole universe together.")

She invites the choir and the brass players who are waiting outside to enter the hall, and all do that while playing and singing. After this, a climax is achieved when soprano and choir sing the above text together. Everything from the beginning of the Moment happens in a setting that almost might be described as happy hippy musical-like atmosphere, and you start wondering where all this is supposed to go. Before long, however, a dark color enters the music with violent chords from the trombones the first appearance of these chords occurs even before the climax of the soprano and choir with the above statement. Then the basses are singing, also with a dark color, "ka: ma: ma: ka:" etc. Subsequently, the solo baritone (choir soloist) starts answering the soprano in a mocking tone with a text from the Song of Salomon (from the Old Testament), upon her remark that she cannot find her friend: "Where did your friend go, oh most beautiful among the women, where did your friend turn to, we want to go search him together with you." The mocking tone is sustained when the male choir continues to use other texts from the Song of Salomon, describing her beauty, while the choir women repeat "kikeriki, kikeriki" ("cock-a-doodle-doo, cock-a-doodle-doo").

At once, the whole excited helter-skelter comes to a halt, and the soprano starts to recite from a letter by Mary Bauermeister. In slow talking she emphasizes every word and her recitation leans a bit towards solemn whispering, thus trying to add gravity to what is said. But even now the mocking by the choir goes on, as basses and tenors interfere from time to time in a ridiculing tone with a completely different text from the Song of Salomon or with other deriding interjections. The soprano recites entirely without or only with very sparse musical accompaniment; the resulting intimacy gives her a critical vulnerability to the attacks of mockery. After a while she overlays on the continued speaking selective singing of certain syllables on high pitches. This makes the declamation almost somewhat affected and its vulnerability to the ridiculing comments of the choir even greater, reaching an emotionally very sensitive level. Later and finally, the soprano seeks stability in a dreamy atmosphere, yet even this attempt to escape from ridicule will eventually prove unsuccessful.

The slowly talking recitation of the soprano is introduced and interrupted by her singing of brief passages from the Song of Salomon, singing that is very moving in its melodic lines and even more enhances the emotional sensitivity of the entire passage. The lyrics carried by those melodic lines, which are surging here and there, find their expressive high point when finally the soprano sings: "nobody, nobody may ridicule me".

At this point, the solo bass (choir soloist) interferes: "what are you upset about?", and from there he starts an incredible, vehement spoken diatribe against the soprano, spiced with great sense of humor, also evident in the short interjections of the tenors (the text is from Stockhausen). The passion of ridiculing in this bass solo achieves a truly fantastic level, the bass not only uses words but also makes other fitting sounds and exclamations, and at two points he even starts to grunt like a pig! It all fits perfectly into an impressively spirited dramatic passage.

Finally, more choral forces start to throw in their own diverse comments, the music becomes very tumultuous, and eventually the concluding remark, which is also the title of this Moment, appears and becomes more intense in all the voices: "Denn die Liebe ist stärker als der Tod" ("For love is stronger than death"). With this, the music leaves all mockery behind, now working towards a climax, and it seems that a return to the grandiosity of the beginning is the goal. At its most excited moment, however, the music takes a turn, calms down, and ends in a pensive mood, still repeating the final remark.

*****

This Moment "For love is stronger than death", full of deep emotionality, is a grand statement about human drama. The music is molded with daring expressive devices, all balanced on the edge but successfully, making it an impressive achievement.

The goal of this Moment apparently is to summarize in a fluid, dramatic and extended form what MOMENTE is all about: a music about love, but a music with all kinds of contradictory elements, and with very different texts of vastly diverse aspirations and literary levels (see above).

Such presentation in an extended Moment is certainly useful, in light of the limited intelligibility of the text in many of the other Moments in this work. Often the character of singing and/or the density of the overlapping of vocal strands does not permit any other than just the text sung by the main voice(s) to be readily understood if that at all. In those situations, the music and its textures reigns above intelligibility of the words. At many points different texts overlap to such density that the resulting fabric is clearly more about an idea composed in music than about any intention of the composer to have the listener follow the diverse simultaneous texts (as would also be later the case in UNSICHTBARE CHÖRE for instance). A prime example for this is the Klatsch-Moment (Clapping-moment).

The three large Moment-groups

After the opening moment there appears the succession of the three large Moment-groups which the composer comments on in the introduction above, the D-, K- and M-Moments.

The D-Moments show a prominence of speechsong and whispersong. These kinds of vocal expression are not often heard in music, and especially not to such a great and enduring extent in choral music, the vocal music that is so predominant in Momente alongside the voice of the solo soprano.

In these Moments there is a fascinating, constant flow back and forth between various degrees and different styles of speechsong (or whispersong) and singing, occurring with very high frequency. Also, various styles of vocal expression can coexist simultaneously in different voices.

As pointed out above by the composer, there are not only "pure" Moments in each Moment-group, but also Moments incorporating the characteristics of other kinds of Moments; furthermore, excerpts from other types of Moments can be used as inserts in a given Moment. Because of this, a certain part of the flowing back and forth between speechsong and singing in the D-Moments is due to various coloring of some D-Moments by the more songful M-elements (see below).

Also, there is a constant flux of the main voice between soprano and choir, and within the choir between different sections, or between choir soloists. This flux very often takes place between groups of just two or three words, and even can occur between single words or syllables. Certainly, also in more conventional choir music, or music for choir and soloists, the vocal sections sometimes switch between phrases or even single words. Yet there is an essential difference: In more conventional choir music the musical flow mostly does not change in character during the process of switching vocal forces. In the D-Moments however, the flow of the music very often alters its character going from singing to speechsong, from speechsong to whispersong etc., or making transitions of various degree in between the above when the leading voice in the music changes. In several passages this makes the density of change in the music seem absolutely staggering.

This effect is amplified by another factor: due to the frequent speechsong in the D-Moments of MOMENTE, words often go by considerably faster than in most normal choral singing. Thus, switching of vocal forces between single words or word groups many times also takes place faster than usual.

There are quite a few passages where other vocal sounds are heard. Among those vocal sounds are voiceless exhalation, breathing, transitions between these and whispering, soft whistling, hissing, soft rolling rrrrr, and humming. Also tongue clicking is heard (alongside the finger clicking that is applied as well). Several of these sounds also may occur simultaneously, and often somewhat sustained textures are created with them. More so than in the M- and K-Moments where they also occur, in the D-Moments these vocal sounds are sometimes heard almost in isolation by themselves, not just as a strand in the music next to the main vocal textures. The additional refinement of the music by the employment of such vocal expression, on top of the other nuances of texture, is riveting.

The K-Moments always stand in the center, flanked by the D-Moments and M-Moments which can switch their positions with each other (in the Europe Version heard on the CD, the sequence is D-K-M-Moments). In the K-Moments the instrumental music is allowed to develop climactic force (as is also prominently the case in the closing Moment, the Praying-moment). These Moments, where male voices dominate alongside the solo soprano, feature very "noisy" and tumultuous music: shouting and exclamations instead of singing, numerous attacks of percussion and brass, and all that in a polyphony where at first hearing the different strands in the music seem to hang together in a rather loose manner, with no apparent tight musical coordination. The performers almost seem to celebrate a party, taking a break from their strict musical services.

All this of course is not the case. Also here musical tension is tightly governed, and it is impressive how it is achieved. One important way to create tension in the K-Moments is the extreme and sudden contrasting of loud musical outbursts, often carried or led by percussion, with very quiet moments appearing as a reaction. These quiet moments are "noisy" in their own way as well, but with very subtle noise. They feature soft grinding sounds, most likely coming from rubbing of drumsticks and brushes on drumheads, or from "shuffling of feet or rubbing of hands sounding similar" to the above (the composer). Possibly treatment of the tam-tams is involved too.

Also other means are employed for creating tension, as well as for fluidly integrating the exclamations into the encompassing musical framework. One such device is to introduce organically developing waves of surging and fading energy into the texture.

Contrasting and with each other overlapping audience reactions ("dreadful, wonderful" etc.) are composed into the K-Moments. It is captivating to hear audience reactions at times vehement ones as part of an organic musical architecture, instead of as real-life randomness.

In the M-Moments, melody stands in the foreground, as described by the composer (see above). Most of the time, melody is apparently not meant here in the conventional sense of "tune"; the musical aesthetics of this period of Stockhausen's creative work largely seem to exclude such a notion. Rather, it is obvious in this group of Moments that often the musical setting of the successions of pitches acquires a particularly floating quality, a quality often found in mellifluous melody. Thus, a key attribute of a certain type of "melody" is expressed here in a rather abstract manner, yet also in a characteristic one, therefore justifying the distinction of the M-Moments by the composer as primarily MELODY-Moments. The soprano voice, predominant in this group of Moments, is a sublime carrier of the floating musical lines.

Due to the dominance of the soprano voice, the main voice in the music fluctuates less rapidly between the different vocal forces than it is the case in the D-Moments, the group of Moments that almost seem like sister Moments as compared to the extremely contrasting K-Moments. Nonetheless, the overall vocal setting shows many variations as well. This is due to the constant change of choral forces interacting with the soprano voice, and also due to the many different modes of singing of the soprano and the other voices.

The floating quality of the musical setting of pitch successions perhaps reaches its climax in the ecstatically expressive wide intervals of the melodic line carrying the quote from William Blake: "He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in Eternity's sunrise" (this quote, as it is set into musical notation, also forms the cover of the CD box) that actually is a kind of tune.

Even though it seems to be the primarily defining character of the M-Moments, floating singing not always dominates the texture. At certain moments the soprano voice employs, rather than singing, speechsong that has an exalted character. This occurs most often in the Moments which contain prominent K-elements; in the M (k) Moment and its repetition, the soprano recites with exalted tone from a letter by Mary Bauermeister. Interestingly, also part of the M-Moment proper employs speechsong. As pointed out, however, in any of the M-Moments the soprano voice is predominant, whatever the style of singing may be.

General pauses play an important role in shaping musical tension in several of the M-Moments (mainly in those containing D-elements). Not only that, they fulfill another important role as well. Since the pauses most of the time abruptly follow quite dynamic high notes of the soprano, they help prolong and intensify the character of these notes being "suspended in air".

In some of the M-Moments, cheerful laughing of the soprano and also of female choir voices is heard. This may be a portrait of Mary Bauermeister to whom MOMENTE is dedicated (see also the composer's comment above). In addition, that such laughing occurs especially in this group of Moments seems no coincidence from a purely musical point of view as well. This kind of laughing is part of a category of more floating kinds of musical expression, fitting together with the soaring lines of singing here; certainly it is more floating than the speechsong so prominent in the D-Moments or the shouting exclamations in the K-Moments. In this context, see also the scale of sounds presented by the choir as outlined above by the composer in that scale laughing stands closest to singing.

Stockhausen is a master of human portrayal, and the portrayal of feminine traits in MOMENTE especially in the M-Moments is astonishing. Even though many other composers have impressively written for the female voice and built on its beauty, few have created such strong portrayals of femininity as Stockhausen. Another highlight of his oeuvre in this respect is without a doubt the opera MONTAG aus LICHT, which is "a musical ceremony in veneration of the mother, a celebration of birth and the rebirth of humanity" (the composer).

The other Moments

The D- and K-Moments are separated from each other by the Organ-moment, and between the K- and M-Moments stands the Klatsch-Moment (Clapping-moment). This Moment is first performed in backwards mode and, after the pause that separates the two halves of the work from each other in a live performance, in forwards mode.

The Organ-moment builds its architecture around first subtle, then mighty swelling of sounds from the electric organs and around the deflating of those sounds. At the height of swelling of sound the climax is induced by the insert KM (in the Europe Version), preparing for the following K-Moments. The emphasis on exploring the inner life of single sounds, as it is heard from the electric organs in this Moment, is reminiscent of Stockhausen's electronic music, for example of certain passages in KONTAKTE, HYMNEN and OKTOPHONIE. Finally, in the electronic music of FRIDAY from LIGHT this exploration would be made the central theme of the music.

The Clapping-moment introduces clapping, like in applause, as dramatic device to create musical tension and structure, and it does so in a fascinating manner. The contrast between parts with continuous clapping and clapping with pauses in between is made vital to the development of musical tension, as is the rich palette of variations in dynamics and density of clapping. Pauses in between the clapping follow pauses of the voices. Most of the time the soprano is singing, and during this, multiple simultaneous choral voices provide contrast of texture and great musical density.

The work is concluded by the Praying-moment that derives its name from the fact that "mostly the notated nonsense-syllables are frequently repeated by individual singers, with irrregular rhythms of medium tempo. As a whole it sounds like the murmur of a praying crowd." (From the German description by the composer, translation by me.) This murmur has a strong forward propelling force which, enhanced by variations in dynamics, is able to initiate climaxes.

The architectural tension within the Praying-moment is extraordinary. It is fascinating how most of the time the tension of the music is kept floating in the air in such a manner that the music can develop from any given point either way, calming down or achieving the next climax. With the tension thus floating, these developments in the music can occur with extreme rapidity, without the process sounding forced. This seems like a brilliant realization of what the composer characterized above as being an aspect of moment-form: ".... forms in which at any moment one may expect a maximum or a minimum, and in which one is unable to predict with certainty the direction of the development from any given point;..."

Conclusion

As outlined above, the density of the music in MOMENTE is often very high, both in terms of density of polyphony and in terms of constant and fast-paced change of the gestural and polyphonic fabric. The polyphony of sounds frequently is staggering, introducing the most heterogeneous sounds and musical gestures all at once. The fascinating aspect and what makes this truly outstanding music is that all the heterogeneity in polyphony and in succession of events is welded together into an impeccably organic musical flow.

Stockhausen's imposing command over musical tension, his sense of musical drama, and an unbelievable sonic imagination in what might sound together in a fitting way, all that imbues the mostly very heterogeneous musical flow with uncanny ease.

A lot of that apparent ease most likely is also due to Stockhausen's extraordinary sense of harmony, a quality that possibly in its most direct form is expressed in the gorgeous operas MONTAG and FREITAG aus LICHT, operas where the harmonic component is at the very core of musical expression.

Furthermore, the combination of awesome subtlety with earthy, fresh energy and power in this work is most fascinating. All in all, MOMENTE is Stockhausen at his very best.

Performance and recording

The recording of MOMENTE is available on a 2-CD set at http://www.stockhausen.org/cd_catalog.html (CD 7). The 1972/73 performance of the Europe Version appears to be outstanding (it comprises most of the length of the 2-CD set). The solo soprano, Gloria Davy, sings with what seems utmost command of the score and with great confidence, as well as with great emotionality. The WDR choir performs with energy, subtlety and precision, and the playing of the instrumental ensemble (members of the Musique Vivante Ensemble) as well as that of the organ players is refined and powerful.

I have heard several people regard the 1965 performance of the Donaueschingen Version highly; it has appeared on the Nonesuch and Wergo labels and is heard in excerpts on this CD set as well. I too think it is good, though by quite a margin I would not rate it as high in quality as the 1972/73 performance of the Europe Version. Martina Arroyo sings well, and her forte here is the additional, almost child-like charme that she brings into the performance, a charme to behold. However, I do not hear her being as utmost secure in her singing as Gloria Davy appears to be (just compare for example "He who kisses the joy as it flies lives in Eternity's sunrise"), and the overall fluidity of her singing does not quite match the stunning fluidity of Davy's performance in this apparently very difficult vocal part. The instrumental ensemble (members of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra) does not play with the same precision and refinement as the members of the Musique Vivante Ensemble in the later recording, and the organ playing is less dramatic. The performance of the WDR choir also does not seem quite as coordinated as in the later recording.

The flow of the music overall is not as highly organic as in the performance of the Europe Version. Thus, one of the key qualities of the composition, the combination of heterogeneity of musical elements with an impeccably organic flow (see above), is heard to a lesser extent in the performance of the Donaueschingen Version.

Even though there are notable exceptions, the vocal and instrumental expression in the 1965 recording of the Donaueschingen Version often appears somewhat flattened compared to the later performance of the Europe Version; overall it simply seems less alive. Compared to the ultra-confident sounding rendition of the Europe version, the performance of the Donaueschingen Version almost sounds like a tentative run through the score (although heard by itself, it seems better than that). The textures in their entirety seem to be somewhat thinned out in comparison; this may be a function of the balance between the performers, a function of the way they are recorded, or both.

The 1972/73 recording of the Europe Version is very much alive, dynamic, direct and detailed, allowing to listen deeply into the music. The balance between the performers, as captured in sound, seems close to ideal. Only two issues stands in the way of overall excellence of the recording.

First, there is a slight hardness of timbre noticeable, a hardness that also to some extent blurs detail in loud tutti passages. However, the effect is a rather moderate detriment to the quality of the recording. Second, in some of the Moments there is, to a certain degree, a thinning of timbre observable; in particular, the group of K-Moments and the Praying-moment are affected by this. The explanation for the difference to the fuller timbre of the rest of the recording may lie in the fact that the work was recorded in two distinct groups of sessions in two separate locations, and that these sessions may have varied in technical quality (apart from differences in acoustics).

The 1965 recording of the Donaueschingen Version seems good in sound quality as well, yet I wonder if some changes in the recording balance might have added clarity and fullness to the perception of textures (see also my comment above). There is slight tape hiss present.

*****

The CD comes with an informative 72-page booklet, also featuring a number of photographs of performances and instruments. Addtionally included is the book with the complete sung texts of the Europe version (32 x 27 cm, 36 pages). It also contains the fascinating complete score manuscript of the KM-Moment.

*****

With thanks to Jerome Kohl for helpful discussions.


© Albrecht Moritz 2002, text edited 2005


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