Peter Eotvos & WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln - Karlheinz Stockhausen: Gruppen, Punkte (CD)

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Stockhausen's 'epoch-making' Gruppen paired with Punkte, a work of almost startlingly visceral immediacy

Gruppen is written for an orchestra of 109 musicians, Straussian in size, but not in constitution: in addition to prominent parts for piano and electric guitar, it calls for no less than 12 percussionists. However, the most obvious novelty of this orchestra is that it is divided into three spatially separated groups - one to the left of the audience, one in front, and one to the right - each of which has its own conductor. A primary reason for the three conductors is that, for much of the work, the three orchestral groups play simultaneously at different tempi. This notion of the possibility of different simultaneous tempi is one that has haunted many composers since.
After the première of Punkte in 1963, Stockhausen wasn't entirely satisfied. Maybe the piece was caught a little between two stylistic worlds, and in places it was certainly rather discontinuous: perhaps too inclined to stop and start. The next year Stockhausen made a few initial revisions, but then, in 1966, he came back to the work again, and now the changes were more significant. As a result the work became several minutes longer. But even more striking, perhaps, is the introduction of many 'signals' and little melodic figures. This too is a sign of the times: the purism of the fifties had given way to the pluralism of the sixties, and one could take a certain delight in introducing 'foreign bodies' that would have been utterly taboo a decade earlier. Even then, though, Punkte hadn't quite achieved its definitive form: the last touches were added in 1993, 30 years after the première (it is the 1993 version that is recorded here, for the first time on CD). The result is both extraordinary and unique: there's no other work that sounds or feels quite like the final version of Punkte. What started out as an apparently abstract conception finishes off as a work of almost startlingly visceral immediacy: an instance of savage sensuality that is perhaps unique in Stockhausen's work.

Track Listing

    • Gruppen - for 3 orchestras (1955-57)
    • Punkte - for orchestra (1952/62), printed version 1994

    Additional Details

    Label: BMC Records

    Genre: Classical

    Run Time: 51 mins

    Release Date: 03/13/06

    UPC: 5998309301179

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