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Karlheinz Stockhausen: Tierkreis / Dominik Susteck

Stockhausen / Susteck,Dominik
Release Date: 08/09/2011 
Label:  Wergo   Catalog #: 6736   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Karlheinz Stockhausen
Performer:  Dominik Susteck
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

STOCKHAUSEN Tierkreis Dominik Susteck (org) WERGO 6736-2 (48:32)

Although Stockhausen’s Tierkreis —12 brief melodic (yes, melodic) pieces corresponding to the signs of the zodiac—were composed for music boxes, his later decision to allow the music to be transformed through the performer’s choice of instrumentation and addition of melodic/rhythmic variations has led to some unusual interpretations. In recent years I’ve reviewed versions for lute duo Read more ( Fanfare 24: 1), bassoon and piano (24:2), and trombone-led sextet (27:5), and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Up to now, I’ve been perversely partial to the lute duo of Peter Söderberg and Sven Åberg (on the Alice label, from Sweden) because of the time-warp perspective—imagine Stockhausen as a contemporary of Dowland. But in comparison to their charming, straightforward account, Dominik Susteck has so completely redesigned the music that it sounds like transmissions from Alpha Centauri.

As the organist-in-residence at St. Peter’s Church in Cologne, Susteck is frequently called upon to improvise during the Mass, as well as organize concerts of new music as part of the church’s mission to correlate contemporary art and spiritual belief. His approach to Tierkreis oozes mystery and drama, and draws upon some recognizable precedents, notably Messiaenic harmonies and Stockhausen’s own use of ring modulators and other devices to alter the tonal qualities of acoustic instruments. In fact, the remarkable organ at St. Peter’s, inaugurated in 2004 but expanded upon several times since then, allows Susteck to “orchestrate” the individual pieces and distinguish his variational procedures with what he calls “a radical refinement of sound color.” This includes an almost limitless ability to adapt overtones, a complex system of pitch coupling and sound blending, an elaborate percussive component, and variable air pressure, which affects the quality of pitch. Thus Susteck can shade the sound with microtones and fluctuating distortions, create purely percussive effects, adjust the texture of sound to mimic the original music boxes or other instruments, contrast dynamics to evoke anything from a soft whistling in the distance to otherworldly atmospherics, and devise tonal combinations unavailable on a normal organ. He uses these effects at their most extreme on the four “improvisations” he interpolates during the program, meant to be heard as textural interludes to enhance our experience of Stockhausen’s melodies and his elaborations of them.

Whether you find Susteck’s improvisations to be insightful or intrusive, there’s no denying that his lavish settings and fanciful embellishment clothe Stockhausen’s melodies in a fascinating new garb.

FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

Tierkreis by Karlheinz Stockhausen
Performer:  Dominik Susteck (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975-1977; Germany 

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