There’s more Stockhausen coming our way

There’s more Stockhausen coming our way


norman lebrecht

August 25, 2018

We spoke too soon when lamenting his neglect.

Aside from the upcoming Dutch blast, London’s South Bank has just announced a Karlheinz fest.

Here’s the small print:

The season culminates in the first UK performance of Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus Licht since its UK premiere at the Royal Opera House in 1985. Recipients of the Fondation Stockhausen first prize in 2013, Le Balcon, and their founder and conductor Maxim Pascale make their UK debut with two performances of the opera, combining forces with London Sinfonietta, the New London Chamber Choir and the Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble in a new staged production directed by Benjamin Lazar (21-22 May 2019).


  • John Borstlap says:

    The more Stockhausen we get, the less music.

    I attended the UK premiere in 1985 of that deplorable Thursday and stuck it out till the end, hoping for one passage of interest, but found it a bottomless pit of boredom combined with a mountain of pretention. I went in, armed with extensive listening experience of Klangkunst and being aware of the many different strands in the field, and – for once – with the greatest possible goodwill, knowing that the man was a product of terrible war trauma and Stunde Null obsession, but could not prevent being bored to death. The thing appeared to be something hybrid between Klangkunst and primitive attempts at music, and the ‘listening manual’ did not help with its intricate explanation of ‘Formeln’ which appeared to be a complex description of the most simple element in music: the ‘motive’, as if detected for the first time. Naive, primitive, pretentious – incredible that there still are people taking that stuff seriously.

    “We spoke too soon when lamenting his neglect.” I hope Norman was ironic here, because I would find it difficult to believe he would be serious, thinking of his defense of Verdi against Wagner in the past.

    • Tommy says:

      I was also at the London premiere in 1985 and found it one of the most extraordinary, invigorating and memorable evenings at the opera I’ve ever had.

      So there we go.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yes, and isn’t that interesting? People listen with entirely different ears and experiences. There is a lid for every pot.

    • Jason says:

      Well it’s certainly more musically invigorating than anything your sad little life has contributed!

      • John Borstlap says:

        The occasional comment from under the rock, without which SD would not be such a lively music zoo.

      • Mathieu says:

        I disagree with Mr Borstlap on a great number of issues, incl the one discussed here. But this kind of ad personam attack is totally out of place and uncalled for.

        • Jason says:

          Stockhausen added more to late 20th century music than anyone else, took electronic music to an entirely different level (without which we would not be where we are today) and was arguably the most radical musical mind since Beethoven. Bortslap spends his life whining on here. I rest my case.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Clearly the comment of a stupid and ignorant person, incapable of argument, who has no idea where he is talking about, and thinks the easiest way to disagree is besmearing a site like this with such immature & uncooked reactions….. obviously someone who really believes the nonsense people like Stockhausen threw into the world, supported by a guilt-ridden state. But it is no coincidence that such people are greatly impressed by Stockhausen’s stuff, and indeed, he contributed to where we are now, alas: Stockhausen is for the Jasons of this world.

          • barry guerrero says:

            But John, tell us how you really feel.

          • John Borstlap says:

            To Barry:

            When Stockhausen is mentioned, or when I read that his works are produced again, in spite of what they are, then I have to think of the thing which was inherited, without testament, and which has been completely forgotten – except by audiences:


            It makes me sad – and not because of the musical language, but because of the aspirations.

  • Martin says:

    what? again Stockhausen and still no John Borstlap retrospective? The world of music can be so unfair.

    Borstlap’s master pieces need to be heared so that we all can contribute to correct the history of music and forget about Schönberg and Stockhausen:

    wow, so many notes in so little time. He is even better than Einaudi.

  • Sue says:

    Quick. Duck for cover. Avert your eyes and ears!!

  • Martin says:

    what? again Stockhasuen? where is the John Borstlap retrospective?
    Forget about Stockhausen and Schönberg, who could resist music like this:

    so many notes in so little time, it’s even better than Einaudi.

    • John Borstlap says:

      For the retrospective you will have to be a bit more patient, I’m still alive & kicking. As for Einaudi, he always wrote already his own retrospective, repeatedly, in case listeners forgot.

  • barry guerrero says:

    . . . I’ll be sure to duck.

  • Marc-Antoine Hamet says:

    The name of the conductor is wrongly spelled.
    It is Maxime Pascal.
    Maxime won the Salzburg Festival Young Conductor’s Award in 2014.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    =Intricate explanation of ‘Formeln’ which appeared to be a complex description of the most simple element in music: the ‘motive’,

    That’s a fair point. Stockhausen made SUCH a big deal over the creation of a little tune, or melodic fragment. Whilst I’ll attend Donnerstag in Paris this November (a different production from the London one next spring which Norman mentions) I still have serious doubts about this composer