on 27 January 2011
Karlheinz Stockhausen was one of the most significant composers of the late 20th century, a contemporary of Boulez and Berio, successor to Webern, pioneer of electroaccoustic music and a wholly original voice in modern music. Composed in 1970, Mantra is one of his most fascinating scores and a significant step towards developing the formula technique that dominated his subsequent music, in particular the opera cycle, Licht, which occupied him for some 30 years. Unlike much of his music to that point, which required its performers to realise the score (a sort of semi-improvisation), it is largely through-composed (that is annotated precisely by the composer), combining accoustic instruments (two pianos) and electronics.
There are going to be people reading this review for whom the music itself, indeed Stockhausen's music generally, is entirely new. What should you expect? Music that is intense, exciting, original, but also uncompromisingly modern: don't look for tunes, there aren't any! And beware, Mantra takes a committed listener: I suppose you could dip in, but to get the best of the piece you need to listen intently all the way through. As a devotee of 20th century modernism, I love this music and would recommend it to anyone with a bit of adventure about them. It is music that gives more of itself on each hearing.
As to the performance: realistically, comparison is difficult, because Stockhausen's music is not widely available outside of his own website and I know of only one other recording, which, if it were the only one, I would certainly be recommending. I've done no comparative listening for this review, so my recommendation, and it is (as the 5 stars should suggest) a strong one, is on the basis of what I've heard here alone. Our perforners are young, enthusiastic and talented musicians, thoughtful and sensitive, and wholly together in their vision of the work. They have the advantage of working with Stockhausen's former assistant, Jan Panis, and modern digital technology, which is another factor distinguishing this performance, as well as having the advantage after all this time of at least something of a performing tradition. All that together with a price tag of around a fiver makes this a very attractive purchase for anyone seeking to explore this most individual and unique composer. The track listing and general presentation are also excellent and will be helpful to afficianados and newcomers alike. This is another extraordinary venture for Naxos, who must now be regarded as one of the most important record labels going.
on 26 November 2012
I have to agree with both previous reviewers about the magnificence of this recording. Adamos says there are no tunes. Well, what's so great about tunes? I have been totally in love with, literally, all sorts of music since my teens many, many years ago. I will listen to anything, and this immediately caught my ear. Despite playing in bands myself (various styles) and having a large music collection, I can honestly say that I have no idea what's going on here (musical theory wise), but it is thoroughly captivating and is a CD that I will return to again and again.
Just because my tastes are broad doesn't mean that I will like any old rubbish, but this is so different, so captivating, and so complex that it reveals more with each listen. They say that ignorance is bliss, well, my musical ignorance has not been a barrier to an hours worth of total bliss in this instance.