you may recall or own the early vinyl from the late Sixties on CBS, a Box set of Kontarsky also playing these first 11 piano pieces, the latter ones 12 through 15 were subterranean objects utilized as particle-like accompaniments for Stockhausen's opera for each day of the Week :Licht:(#13 klavierstuck with Bass Voice of Lucifer added).
The first four piano pieces here function within an evolution, for one can decipher one,if one chooses. These were written still under the tutelage in Paris of his teacher Messiaen, and explored a harsh pointillism,not like Webern in the least,but struck from that expressive conceptual vein, "punkte", or "points",were the paradigm of the day, Cage and Boulez soon had works as well; deeply cold,auspicious and strident piercing differing registers with many times the spatial distribution that coincided with the dynamics; softer tones played pianissimo,or gradations of it, p,pp,ppp,pppp,ppppp were in a distance, louder tones,f or ff,or fff,or ffff, sfz, or sffz were in front of you.There is an overwhelming aggressive dimension to the young Stockhausen still to these early pieces,almost machine-like,all-encompassing, third person; yet they do have points of beauty of the clean,clangorous crisp,and threadbare lines,single and multiple atonal tones exposed, tossed again into all registers, as # 2 and 3.The rhythmic configurations were the most difficult yet seen with dotted-values tied, with a virtuosic demeanor,short fragmented thunderous bursts,impenetrable at times.
Also the piano resonance has a marvelous mystery in Stockhausen,nothing extended yet as harmonics, as if these pieces have a trajectory all their own without history or points of reference outside them.Although at this time Stockhausen was very much interested in communication theory, the science of numbers and densities,pre-e;electropnic thinking; the existential angst(also of this post-war period) and extra-musical dimensions was left to his creative colleagues as Berio,Penderecki and Nono to decipher.
With piano piece #5 we have now "groups" of tones that are explored, harmonies to be heard, non-functional,again the free resonant canvas of timbre; and then tempi,always again with a virtuosic demeanor soliciting almost constant metronomic changes,pulse transformations in gradations,slow-fast-slow,slow fast,slow, in #6 Stockhausen provides a graph above the piano system to chart these tempi changes to act as a visual guide for the pianist, 45 at the top of this graph and 185 at the bottom.,#7 then has an abundance of harmonics to explore and this is the most beautiful (within this context) of the lot,#8,and #9,is/was the most widely played with the incessant reiteration of chords,"groups" with sharp chordal punctuations, attacks all explore then differing resonant chambers, as repeated tones, and beautiful harmonics,this as the focus for the entire work with again dynamics explored. Not until #10 is where the pianist plays with white gloves with the fingers cut out at the tips, to expose the flesh this to negotiate/elicit the multitudes of glissandi, with overwhelming forearm and palm clusters, groups, and "groups of groups" of tones now further accretes into cascades and mountains of piano resonances, still defined and shaped within a rhythmic scheme. Then #11 is the indeterminate one mobile,something wrought from John Cage an early mentor; where musical fragments are places on a large page, 2 feet by 3 feet, and the pianist must decide the routes and pathways takened. Kontarsky plays all these these very well,and had worked with the composer closely as well as publically performing them numerously throughout Europe, the reading here is sort of centrist not overly engaging but allowing the densities,attacks,points and registers to be and ring as they were intended.I prefer Rzewski in #10 only better for the electricity he seems to bring to his tone and resonant trajectory.
The Mikrophonie as well is here an early piece of live electronics, a genre that is quite commonplace now; where contact mikes and hand-held microphones are places close to the surface of a very large 8 Foot Tam-Tam,then with chalk placed on toilet paper cartridges,the player slowly glides this over the surface with the elctronics picking up gorgeous tones,overtones and detritus of timbre,also harmonics are elicited from this wonder of an instrument, You need four players here, two manning the Tam-Tam and two on electronics to distribute the timbres within the audience places.