ZANKEL HALL ON SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21 AT 7:30 PM
|Carnegie Hall presents a rare performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s powerful and influential 1968 modern vocal work Stimmung by the ensemble Theatre of Voices in Zankel Hall on Saturday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. Theatre of Voices—comprised of singers Else Torp, Louise Skovbæch, Randi Pontoppidan, Wolodymyr Smishkewych, Chris Watson, and Jakob Bloch Jespersen—perform Stockhausen’s seminal work for six amplified voices, the first major Western piece of music to utilize overtone singing, in which the note being sung is manipulated by the singer to produce more than one pitch at once. The technique is commonly found in Eastern singing styles, such as Mongolian and Tuvan throat singing.
With the premiere of Stimmung in Paris in December 1968, Stockhausen redefined classical vocal singing. Comprising a series of sonic sequences, built on overtones of B-flat in multiple combinations, Stimmung—a German word with many meanings including “tuning” and “mood” and similar to stimme or “voice”—showcases an experimental, new way of thinking about the compositional process in its exploration of speech and sound. Recorded only three times since its premiere, including an acclaimed 2007 disc by Theatre of Voices, the work is interpreted differently with each performance, with the score allowing performers the ability to determine the length of the performance, similar to American composer Terry Riley’s In C of 1964. In 29 of the sections, “magic names” are called out—names of gods and goddesses of many cultures, including Aztec, aboriginal, and Ancient Greek. The texts also include erotic love poems written by Stockhausen to his wife. Stockhausen was influenced by a month spent walking among ancient ruins in Mexico, with Stimmung being an attempt to recreate that “magic space.”
About the Artists
Among the group’s early successes was the presentation of several new works by Arvo Pärt and the premiere of Steve Reich’s Proverb—written for them—which they recorded for Nonesuch with a quartet of musicians from the composer’s own ensemble. The group then collaborated with the theatre director Peter Sellars in a staged production of Stravinsky’s Biblical Pieces at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam. They also performed John Adams’s Grand Pianola Music in Los Angeles, conducted by the composer, and the world premiere in Paris of his Christmas oratorio El Niño, followed by a DVD recording and performances worldwide.
Theatre of Voices now regularly appears at international venues such as the Edinburgh Festival, Barbican Centre, and Carnegie Hall. In 2007, they premiered David Lang’s the little match girl passion at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. This piece was commissioned for the group and won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize; their CD of the work received a Grammy Award in 2010 during the group’s 20th anniversary.
In 2008, Theatre of Voices opened the Berliner Festspiele with Stockhausen’s Stimmung—at the composer’s own request—also performing it at the BBC Proms and at venues across Europe and from Mexico to Australia. John Cage is another major figure in modern music who has often been featured by the group. Most recently, the group performed Berio’s Sinfonia for 8 voices and orchestra in Casas da Musica, Portugal.
Theatre of Voices enjoys collaborations with some of the world’s finest instrumentalists, among them the Kronos Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Michala Petri, Andrew Lawrence-King, and the Smith Quartet. They premiered Gavin Bryar’s “The Stones of the Arch” with Kronos Quartet at Barbican Centre’s Steve Reich Festival in 2007, and the two ensembles also undertook a concert and recording project celebrating Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s 80th birthday.
In 2009, Theatre of Voices commissioned and premiered a chamber opera by Chinese composer Liu Sola, The Afterlife of Li Jiantong, at the Royal Danish Opera and the Barbican Centre, London, with Michala Petri (recorder), Andrew Lawrence-King (medieval harp), and Gert Mortensen (percussion). In 2010, the group premiered Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s Company with the London Sinfonietta, a collaboration that resulted in more premieres and recordings in 2012. David Lang wrote ark luggage for Theatre of Voices and the Smith Quartet the same year.
The past few years have included tours to Australia, Sweden, the UK, Mexico, Denmark, the US, Italy, France, Poland, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Luxemburg, and Holland, as well as projects with composers Jóhann Jóhannsson (film project), David Lang, Bent Sørensen, Sunleif Rasmussen, and Bryce Dessner of The National. The group’s most recent CDs are Stockhausen’s Stimmung (the Copenhagen version), David Lang’s the little match girl passion, Stories (Berio, Cage, Berberian), The Christmas Story, and Creator Spiritus (Arvo Pärt), all on the Harmonia Mundi USA label. On Dacapo-Records, Theatre of Voices has released Buxtehude’s Scandinavian Cantatas.
KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN Stimmung, No. 24
Bank of America is the Proud Season Sponsor of Carnegie Hall.
Image at top of release by Mathias Bojesen