Stockhausen Edition no. 36
Part 7/8 of the review

AVE; Kathinka Pasveer & Suzanne Stephens
(Photo:Henning Lohner)

Act III;

EVAs ZAUBER is Act III of MONTAG aus LICHT, scored for basset-horn, alto flute, piccolo / choir, children’s choir / modern orchestra, in three scenes, lasting appr. 58 minutes:


Participants of EVAs ZAUBER:

COEUR de BASSET: Suzanne Stephens [basset-horn]
The PIED PIPER: Kathinka Pasveer [flute]
Electric keyboard instruments: Michael ObstSimon StockhausenMichael Svoboda
Trombone: Michael Svoboda
Percussion: Andreas Boettger
Children: Children’s Choir of Radio Budapest
Men and women: Zaans Cantatekoor, Holland (choir director: Jan Pasveer)
Sound projection: Karlheinz Stockhausen


The scene BOTSCHAFT is comprised of 4 parts (situations):



EVAs SPIEGEL (EVE’S MIRROR) for basset-horn alone is published on Volume 32 of the Stockhausen Edition. My text on that version is submitted below, again for the convenience of the reader:

Stockhausen describes EVAs SPIEGEL thus:

EVE’S MIRROR is an inversion of the melody and the dynamics of the EVE-formula. Eve appears as a basset-horn player wearing a silvery, light-green gown. With instrument in playing position she moves to the center of an open place, slowly looks round in a circle, sees her figure reflected in a rear mirror wall and contemplates herself. After pausing, she turns to the front and plays the solo, self-absorbed and with eyes closed.

The first gentle tones seem risen out of a Debussy or Ravel impressionism, but very shortly Stockhausen climbs afore with his scored vocals and nostril gusts interspersed by Suzanne Stephens in the fluency of her basset-horn brilliance.
This is a very short incident, but beauty and elegance – and wit! – has not to do with time!

In the opera version considered here, the action unfolds thus:
EVE as COEUR de BASSET – absentminded – emerges from behind the EVE-statue, dressed in a light-green, silvery, low-cut gown. She has her instrument ready, in playing position, and moves somnambulistically across the fresh, watered grass lawn, which is surrounded by alien-looking glass sculptures filled with water. As she stops for a minute she happens to see herself mirrored in one of the glass sculptures, remaining there for a while, absorbed by her own reflection as she begins to play. As this is going on, men materialize everywhere, singing:

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

EVE'S MIRROR; Suzanne Stephens
(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)

A dream in tones rises like mist out of the opening bars, as a retracted, restrained drone shimmers like the distant horizon of the sea when the light is pale and emotions elastic.
The choral reflections in the male voices sound like mysterious messages for times to come, like were they – though seemingly just citing a well-known fairy-tale phrase – symbolic vocal settings of
the Book of Daniel, where, in Chapter 12, verses 9 – 10 it is written:

And he went on to say: “Go, Daniel, because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of [the] end. Many will cleanse themselves and whiten themselves and will be refined. And the wicked ones will certainly act wickedly, and no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand.” (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – Rendered from the Original Languages by the New World Bible Translation Committee; revised 1970 C.E., Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania)


In this short 2nd section of scene 1 of Act III some women approach EVE and the men, breaking the news of a newcomer:

A musicus,
a very beautiful, tender, exciting musicus
has arrived.
Everyone says
that he has magic powers.

(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)

Having delivered this news, they’re off again, in laughter and calls.

As the basset-horn pearls along, the approaching women’s voices flutter up like gulls in salty harbor air. Once again I recognize the sensation of being inside a flock of fluttering gulls, and I remember a similar feeling of a loved one tapping my face, forehead and cheek with her fingertips, fast, lightly; like snowflakes on your window…
The feeling breaks inside the piece, when singular louder calls are heard at the deliverance of the news – but as the sound recedes, it’s my imaginary flock of gulls haphazardly, lightheartedly and carefree riding the wind out to the open seas again…


In my text on SUSANI for basset-horn alone from my review of Stockhausen Edition Volume 32 I wrote the following, quoted here for the convenience of the reader:

Stockhausen says:

SUSANI is a three-voiced composition for basset-horn.
After a brief, dancing introduction, the first falling figure of the mirrored (inverted)
EVE-formula commences in the low register on C (sounding). It is immediately linked to the climbing beginning of the EVE-formula in the middle register, likewise on C, followed by the MICHAEL-formula in the high register. Although the latter begins on an A (sounding), its continuation, however, makes evident that its highest pitch, D, is the initial note of the formula, and thus the first ascending fourth A-D effects an apparent mirror (inversion) by interchanging the pitches (A-D-B-flat instead of D-A-B-flat).
When listening, one should concentrate on the three voices, and in the course of the circa 7 minutes re-compose the three formulas, in the mind’s eye, out of the fragments in the three registers, and let their different characters and moods evolve into a unified experience.
SUSANI, imaginary child of Earth, clouds and the heavens, is an ancient name for the child who, thanks to EVE, descended to Earth for the Festival of Light. It is also a playful name form of Suzanne, the name of the basset-horn player for whom SUSANI was composed on December 24th 1984, and to whom it is dedicated

The contour of the fluency harmonizes with the distinct and almost palpable body of the music, of the swaying pillars of ebony basset-horn beauty, with added nostril gusts, click sounds, vocals and toneless wind.
Sometimes the blowing sounds form a mimicry of a storm wind sweeping across the room – horses galloping across the Mongolian plains! – while at other places the basset-horn paints – with a delicate sable’s hair pencil – the outline of figs, dates and a Christmas tree shining with the good will and warmth of family and friends gathered in a mid-winter festivity of human fellowship.

SUSANI in a basset-horn solo version
in Linz, Austria 1986; Suzanne Stephens
(Photo: Karlheinz Stockhausen)

In the opera setting of SUSANI on Volume 36 of the Stockhausen Edition, which we deal with here, the piece is a continuation of the preceding situations out of BOTSCHAFT (MESSAGE), which is scene 1 from Act III; EVAs ZAUBER (EVE’S MAGIC) from the opera MONTAG AUS LICHT.

As silence once again has fallen and the news-women have disappeared into the distance, EVE starts playing with the men, changing her ways by the minute, from being seductive to being dreamy, flirty, dainty, witty, cool, saucy, charming and humorous (and all of us who have been in love recognize all these characteristics of behavior very well!)
The men respond to EVE’s capricious whims by singing:


The glass sculpture which reflected COEUR de BASSET splinters. A woman’s voice calls out: “Okay!”

The men continue:

Beloved of the ceremonies,
sacred service of musical celebrations:

Basset-horn, magician among instruments,
instrument of the high and low,
binds women and men,
guardian of the mysterious forces,
which unite the separated.

EVE’s mirror:
in space and time mirrored EVE-melody,
inclining, sinking, surrendering
to the lowness of the men’s voices
ascending as the fairest of them all

unites the darkness
of the EVE formula mirrored in the low register
by way of its original form
- which, in the middle, counterbalances –
with MICHAEL’s formula mirrored in the heights,
with climbing falling runs
you connect the layers by ascent and descent.

You collect the formula’s limbs,
distribute anew,
heal the world through the unification
of EVE’s body-thirds and MICHAEL’s soul-fourths,
help the proper understanding

SUSANI; Suzanne Stephens
(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)

The part (situation) of BOTSCHAFT (MESSAGE) called SUSANI opens with male voice-rectangles moving forth in a tight formation, like the monoliths soaring out of Jupiter in the movie 2010, right before God’s message to Humanity flashed across all TV screens around the Earth, telling the humans that all these worlds were theirs, as long as they stayed away from the Jupiter moon Europa.
The basset-horn moves in supporting intimacy with the males, in serpentines, garlands of softer, more rounded and decorative figures, around the male rectangular statements, until the voices and the basset-horn suddenly stoop forward, moving in a fast, downward glissando which ends in the splintering of glass; the glass sculpture crashing.
After a flowery basset-horn gesture, the males sing in intermittent jerks, expressing the text almost mechanically, in a robot-like Tibetan monk-chant manner. Very soon the males start sounding like priests at a Catholic Mass, and then right away as a Hebrew rabbi in a synagogue – but all this inside the texture of the music; more as hints than as downright expressions of facts.
A mix of blowing mouth-sounds, the serious-sounding male voices and a rather erratic basset-horn makes for a very original impression.
A drone of uncertain origin develops as the weight of the sound shifts, like a giant of the Earth taking a heavy step forward, stopping to look around high above the tree tops of coniferous forests, breathing, until taking another heavy step in a mighty motion of tone-masses across the score!
Lighter high altitude women voices season the tonal texture with feathery Cirrus uncinus-cloud sensitivity, adding their sensual and evasive touch to the ever-present grace of the basset-horn.
An increasing tranquility grows in like a Waldschnepfe (Scolopax rusticola; European woodcock) June evening of Karelia; pale light, horizon-drone and all, until, at the very last seconds, a mischievous female voice calls out, directly followed by some wooden noises.


In my text on the music of the Stockhausen Edition Volume 35 I published this section on AVE for basset-horn and alto flute:

AVE for basset-horn and alto flute is a piece that Stockhausen composed in Africa, in Kenya. Stockhausen vividly explains the piece in the booklet:

The magic flutist of fairytales, legends, epics and operas has expanded his abilities to an indescribable degree. He no longer makes mistakes. His Adored One no longer sings in ethnic German or any translation, but rather in the most international language of the basset-horn. On their instruments, both can now rush like wind, shout, sing, speak, yodel, weep, sigh and cheer; they play rapid passages in quarter-, sixth- and eight-tones and other minute steps. Effortlessly, they move in space with daring positions, dancing virtuosity, humor, with much charm and with erotic allusions.

Those who attended the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten in August 2001 certainly remember a magnificent performance of AVE by Belgian flutist Karin de Fleyt and Italian basset-hornist Michele Marelli. There was magic at work that night of 9th August in the Sülztalhalle of the Kürten school complex between the rolling hills of the Bergisches Land.

AVE; Michele Marelli & Karin de Fleyt
at the Stockhausen Courses
in Kürten August 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

I had the added pleasure of attending the master classes which Kathinka Pasveer and Suzanne Stephens conducted with the performers in the days ahead of their 9th August performance, and at the magical night of Karin de Fleyt’s and Michele Marelli’s appearance I couldn’t help but notice a tear in the eye of one of the teachers, who was seriously moved by the content of the composition, so tenderly expressed by the Belgian-Italian couple in a performance which indeed was devastating!
Their effort also won them a prize at the end of the Courses, handed to them by Stockhausen at a concluding ceremony.

In an introductory text from 1987 Stockhausen lets on that he spent several hours each day for three months experimenting with new micro-scales for
AVE, “voiced and voiceless (‘rushing’) consonant timbres”, with his two musicians; Kathinka Pasveer and Suzanne Stephens. He explains that the piece contains “numerically indefinable intervals of up to 26 steps within a major third (quasi ‘13th-tones’)”.
Stockhausen especially puts our attention to “
the indescribable timbre changes” which occur in AVE. It is a very fine-tuned music.
Another extremely important ingredient of this work is the choreographic content. The movements of the two players, swirling about each other, distancing themselves and then drawn to each other in an utter expression of spiritual as well as erotic love, is magnetic, mesmerizing - and the exemplary execution of this choreographic love dance by Karin de Fleyt and Michele Marelli in Kürten was enough all by itself to bring tears to eyes!

In connection with
AVE Stockhausen gives these interesting pieces of information:

Since 1970 a new performance practice has developed in my works:

performance from memory;

singing and playing without a conductor, knowing the parts of the other musicians from memory;

stylization of all movements, often according to detailed notation;

a ‘concert’ is either a single work without interruption, or a composition of ‘pieces’, which are connected to each other by way of a spatial or temporal process;

designing special costumes for each composition, if possible;

planning characteristic lighting for each work;

avoiding all inartistic actions.

Everyone who has attended a Stockhausen concert or even the Stockhausen Courses (open to ordinary auditors as well as to composers, musicians and scholars) has experienced the richness of the concept given by Stockhausen in his summation above.

Then Stockhausen goes on to make a very important statement with a punch to the finishing sentence that should be heeded and taken to heart by artists and laymen and one and all:

It becomes clear, that the style of performance for a particular concert and for each work is formed very characteristically and unforgettably, similar to the manner in which – since 1951 – I have composed new timbres and a unique form for each ‘piece’.
Creativity itself has become content and form for each work

Stockhausen describes AVE for basset-horn and flute like this on Volume 35 of the Edition:

After loudly whispering the numbers one to thirteen, a female alto flutist disguised as a young man rushes in. The two now play a duet having 7 stages:

touching and getting to know one another;

greeting and arguing with shouts (but also with kissing noises…);

singing, playing and tongue clicking around each other;

speaking with each other through the instruments;

seducing each other;

weeping and cheering up again;

yearningly sighing, at last dancing with each other and uniting

They end in an entwined pose

AVE; Karin de Fleyt & Michele Marelli
at the Stockhausen Courses
in Kürten August 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

Suzanne Stephens’ and Kathinka Pasveer’s performance on the recording on Volume 35 of the Stockhausen Edition is nothing short of wondrous, but we have almost come to expect this from these gallant and decisive, utterly sensitive and immensely gifted artists, who are true masters of their instruments, but let’s not forget the hard road anyone wanting to achieve this mastery has to travel, and the over-zealous work that has to go into the effort of retaining that mastery, never for a second loosing focus, walking the razor’s edge of artistic perfection!
It is a great joy to find out – which I did at the Stockhausen Courses in 2001 – that also young people are willing to give their total attention to this zeal of reaching perfection, which evidently Karin de Fleyt (1972) and Michele Marelli (1978) are doing, and I send them my spiritual encouragement for a successful continuation of artistic fulfillment!

The opera version of AVE emerges and unfolds thus:

A female alto flute player – dressed like a man – arrives while playing, accompanied by the women. The men draw nigh, curious, as the women mix in with them. They look attentively at EVE and the flutist who play a duet enacting the days of the week challenging poses, virtuoso dancing, humor, charm and erotic allusions. The choir comments on them [some phonetic letters left out]:

ravishing rushing
Monday’s BRIGHT
Susani’s Echo
AVE flute player
silver-green like EVA
Monday’s bright shine
[mo: ]

shrill screaming
Tuesday’s FIGHT
as red as blood
[ti: ]

Wednesday’s HEIGHT
green-red-blue Yellow

harmonising relation
Thursday’s RIGHT
correct understanding
of Thursday’s clear blue

seductive yodeling
Flee the temptation
Friday’s FLIGHT
evening sun
[frae: ]

sounding perception
of finest steps
Saturday’s NIGHT
[satu: ]

Sighing and Cheering
in mystical union
Sunday’s LIGHT
Glowing gold

…and EVE and flutist end in an entwined pose…

Suzanne Stephens & Kathinka Pasveer
at Teatro alla Scala 1988

The flute takes off decisively at the outset, twining, spinning, as the women whisper among themselves and the basset-horn paints with a darker hue. Male and female voices roll out fences of bamboo and retractable walls of balsa wood across the score, in choral densities across an imaginary scenery inside the listener’s mind, where Stockhausen’s music lives its own life, unaffected by intent.
Beautiful textures of sound result from the constant weaving of vocal and instrumental (synthesizers and percussion) timbres in a persuasion of Stockhausenesque brilliance.

AVE; Kathinka Pasveer & Suzanne Stephens
(Photo:Henning Lohner)

Basset-horn and flute fold out long, winding micro-scale prayer-beads of sound, spellbinding my perception, which firmly attaches to the movement through the score, through infinitesimal shifts of pitch and timbre, bending my hearing a little out of whack, as I’m taken on a tour of subtle changes, turning around inside a hovering soap-bubble in the sunlight of a small-town backyard…
A deep, rumbling drone emerges as the female voices sound liturgic, giving me a feeling and sense of the open expanses under a dome of Christianity, the drone picturing the church organ while some sparse synthesizer sounds hint at big church bells way up in a tower.
The wave-like motion of ascending and descending basset-horn and flute lends the music a gently rolling rhythm, like the heavy swell from a distant died-down storm below the horizon, arching through silent moonlight.

The basset-horn and the flute calms down in a merging unison, a kiss is smacked, and then… applause!

to part 8 of the review