Stockhausen Edition no. 1
(Chöre für Doris, Kreuzspiel etc)

Karlheinz StockhausenChöre für Doris (1950) / Choral (1950) / Drei Lieder (1950) / Sonatine (1951) / Kreuzspiel (1951)
Stockhausen 1.

The Choir of the North German Radio, Irmgard Jacobeit, (soprano soloist), Karlheinz Stockhausen, cond.) (Chöre & Choral) – The Symphony Orchestra of the Southwest German Radio, Baden-Baden, Sylvia Anderson (solo alto voice), Karlheinz Stockhausen, cond. (Drei Lieder) – Saschko Gawriloff (violin) & Aloys Kontarsky (piano) (Sonatine) – London Sinfonietta (Janet Craxton, oboe – Roger Fallows, bass clarinet – John Constable, piano – James Holland, Peter Britton, David Corkhill, percussionists), Karlheinz Stockhausen, cond. (Kreuzspiel)
Duration: 57:00. Released 1991.

Listening to the first works being issued in the large-scale Stockhausen Edition series, one might expect some give-aways as to a possible notion of the trials of a disciple, since Stockhausen at the time of composition of the opening works on this CD no 1 was a mere 21 years old. That is, however, not the case. These are already artistically mature works, which might show that the inner core of the existence of a human being – the innermost core of the characteristics of a spirit - already is shaped and set at the outset of life, and that the most important thing we can do as life progresses is to be as much ourselves as possible, shaping our life in accordance with the original core that is always there, refining our conduct in relation to that spiritual core, not being bewildered by exterior impulses of all kinds, that may lead astray, and usually, for most of us, really do lead astray, to where we feel lost in civilization.

Karlheinz Stockhausen, as one of the most important creative spirits of our day, has certainly kept and refined the inner core of his being, which is easily understood from listening to his compositions – even his early compositions!


The first pieces on CD no 1 of the Edition – “Chöre” and “Choral” - are dedicated to Stockhausen’s first wife Doris. Stockhausen studied at the State Conservatory in Cologne from 1947 – 1951. His major instrument in those days was the piano, but harmony and counterpoint were also required, which in turn resulted in free stylistic exercises on the part of the students. Stockhausen says in the accompanying booklet that he “composed fugues, chorale preludes, song settings, choir pieces and sonatas” during this period. Sometimes he also wrote a cappella choir pieces, since he sang in the conservatory choir, and “Chöre für Doris” and “Choral” are examples of this.

The textual basis for the “
Chöre für Doris”-compositions are poems by the French poet Paul Verlaine, from “Paysages Tristes”, “Aquarelles” and “Liturgies Intimes”.

Stockhausen in Cologne 1950
(from CD booklet; color adaption by I. L. Nordin)

Even as early as 1950, when “Chöre” was conceived, the young Stockhausen had the finger-tip sensuality of merging text and melody into a functioning whole, conveying the somber mood of the longing for a missed loved one, spoken through trees and birds and the sum of nature around the poet. This kind of poetry, spoken through the shades and nuances of nature, can be quite effective, and has been widely applied. One of the finest examples in Europe of this tradition is the early poetry by Swedish poet and aphorist Vilhelm Ekelund (1880 – 1949), who sadly has only been translated into English in a very limited fashion, and hardly at all into German, even though Vilhelm Ekelund spent many forlorn years in Berlin in the early 20th Century, and even though he made many German poets, writers and philosophers, like Stefan George, Heinrich Heine, Friedrich Hölderlin, Gottfried Keller, Heinrich von Kleist, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and Nikolaus Lenau more widely appreciated in Scandinavia, leaving quite an important impression on literature in the Nordic countries, especially since Vilhelm Ekelund was a “poet’s poet” and a “writer’s writer”.
Speaking of poets expressing themselves through nature, I recall the deep impression this poem by Lenau made on me when I was seven-teen, as I read it as a quotation in the poetry collection “
Melodier i skymning” (“Melodies at Dusk”) from 1902 by Vilhelm Ekelund:

Ein tiefres Heimweh hat mich überfallen,
als wenn es auf die stille Haide regnet,
wenn im Gebirg die fernen Glocken hallen

Somehow the fluid merger of text and melody that Stockhausen manages in this Verlaine poem – “The Nightingale” – renders atmospheres of a similar dignity, as Verlaine’s poem conveys the loss of the Absent One. This is quite an achievement for a composer, musician and thinker in the beginning of what was to become the unparalleled career of Stockhausen’s.

The following two poems by Verlaine are given similarly exquisite tonal expression by Stockhausen, in atmospheres quite different from the initial poem.


The poem “Choral” is written by Stockhausen himself, already in 1950 giving a hint of the strong spiritual force that would lift, carry and illuminate the compositional and philosophical life’s work of Karlheinz Stockhausen, which still moves in irrepressible force through the early 21st Century. The finishing lines of “Choral”:

…macht ein Wunder uns zu Knechtes Dienst bereit.
Gottes Ruf geschieht in allem Kommen

…a miracle makes us ready for servant’s duties.
God’s call is manifest in all which comes to pass

Already here, in these lines, we are made aware of the universal spirituality that is the force that drives the Cosmos; “God’s call is manifest in all which comes to pass”.


Stockhausen conducting "Drei Lieder" 1973

Surprisingly, Stockhausen says, that in 1951 he had “no ambition whatsoever to be or to become a composer”! He studied music education at the State Conservatory in Cologne, and felt “an undeniable urge to once try to compose a larger piece” by himself, which is why he composed “Drei Lieder”. This was his first piece for instrumental ensemble and also the first piece for solo voice. He wrote it during a three-week seclusion in Blecher, near Altenberg, after making some money in an automobile factory in Burscheid. After encountering Herbert Eimert, who in the first years of the 1960s was to become the composer of famous works like “Epitaph für Aikichi Kuboyama” and “Sechs Studien”, but who then was a music critic and the producer of the night music program of the West German Radio in Cologne, Stockhausen decided to exchange the first poem of “Drei Lieder” for Charles Baudelaire’s “The Rebel”. The two subsequent poems were written by Stockhausen in 1951.

Drei Lieder” is also dedicated to Stockhausen’s first wife Doris, to whom he brought the score after writing it in 1951.

The poem “Free” reminds me of some medieval troubadour poem, with its refrain and its motif. It also calls to mind the story of the Gordic knot, which was cut through instead of being untied. This hints at unforeseen, unorthodox solutions to problems, as in the case of the egg of Columbus too, and possibly this is what we see a lot of in the oeuvre of Stockhausen; unforeseen and unorthodox solutions to musical and moral problems.

The last poem of the “Drei Lieder” set is called “The String Man”, and has many implications too, well out of the context of the poem and the music. It has to do with the creative act as such, as idea, and the ability to shape what hasn’t been shaped, to think what hasn’t been thought, to hear what hasn’t been heard. In many ways Stockhausen has been able to do this. Already in this poem from 1950 he knew this. This makes the study of the works of Stockhausen even more interesting, since they in fact in many ways constitute the realization of a plan, and form a whole, a “oneness”, which I’ve only seen once before, in the writings of the aforementioned Swedish poet and writer Vilhelm Ekelund, whose life’s work certainly made up a harmonious whole, when studied chronologically. There are lines here, in Stockhausen’s music and writings, which you become aware of only after involving yourself deeply in it, immersing yourself with it. Then you can appreciate the uniqueness of the core of these works, spread out across years and decades, and you begin to visualize a pattern, where it all falls in place, in lines and shapes of great beauty.

The impression of “
Drei Lieder” that you immediately get, musically, is that of great force, in a restrained and very exact portioning, with an intricate and skilled interaction between voice and instruments, in ever-changing tempi, and at times in Stravinskij-like dance figures, bordering on ballet music, choreographic music.


Piano was, as I mentioned before, the major instrument of Stockhausen’s at the beginning. “Sonatine” for violin and piano was the last of a series of pieces that Stockhausen wrote in the process of composing stylistic exercises in 1951. This is a delightful chamber piece indeed. Stockhausen explains in the booklet that the three movements, which are played without intermittent pauses, all evolve from a single row for melody, rhythm and dynamics. The impression is at times canon-like, though this may be just my subjective unprofessional impression, and my thoughts and associations also stray to the likes of Mieczyslaw Vainberg, or at least to some highly evolved Russian post-war chamber music – and it is astounding that this could be achieved by the very young Stockhausen in 1951, as a “stylistic exercise”!


The last piece on this CD no 1 in the Stockhausen Edition – surprisingly – caused a scandal as it was being premiered at a public performance at the Darmstadt Vacation Courses in the summer of 1952. The piece was “Kreuzspiel” (“Cross-Play”).
Stockhausen here applies a method of crossings of temporal and spatial procedures; hence the name. Stockhausen explains the method in the booklet, to which I direct the readers. Stockhausen clarifies, that there is sometimes in this piece “a tendency away from the systematized formal procedures: a note occurs in the wrong register, its duration of dynamics deviate from the series etc.” Maybe this is what caught the critics off-guard in 1952. Given the experience of experimental music of all sorts that we have today, this piece would not cause any havoc now, but still attracts a lot of interest. The piece gives me associations to the Swedish composer Bo Nilsson, who in the latter part of the 1950s wrote pieces reminiscent of these early works by Stockhausen. Possibly – probably – Stockhausen inspired Nilsson. Bo Nilsson had many ties to Germany and the studio in Cologne. In fact, Nilsson’s piano piece “
Bewegungen” was premiered by David Tudor together with Stockhausen’s “Klavierstück XI” at the famous concert in the Carl Fischer Concert Hall in New York on 22nd April 1957.

The first stage of “
Kreuzspiel” – in a very rough and not completely accurate description – starts from the outer limits of the register and moves inwards, meet and move again outward. The second stage moves from the middle out, while the third stage combines these methods.

The sounding result, anyhow, is that of a highly complex, rhythmic and very spatial chamber piece, challenging the connoisseur of sound and form.

I also note, with pleasure, that even though the pieces presented on this CD were recorded in medio of the 1970s, the sound is extremely good. In fact, I can’t tell any difference from a recording being made today. In addition to all the other advantages of this recording – for example the distinguished efforts by the musicians - this fact makes this CD even more worthwhile.


Volume 2