1956 was the year in which both the Hungarian György Ligeti and the Argentinian Mauricio Kagel emigrated to Germany. Both of the composers settled in Cologne, which at the time was an important centre of the post-war avant-garde. Out of their shared distaste for authoritarian regimes, both exiles reacted sceptically to the purism which was then prevalent in European minimalist music. Using great imagination, originality and a sharp sense of humour, they each spent their lives turning musical conventions upside down.
In his ‘Stücke der Windrose’ (‘Pieces of the Compass Rose’), Kagel sets the various directions of the wind to music. However, the terms used are far from unambiguous. “To an Argentinian, the ‘South’ doesn’t mean sunshine and palm trees,” said Kagel. “It makes him think of the bleak cold of the Antarctic and Patagonia.” In these pieces for a salon orchestra, Kagel uses unorthodox means to combine styles of music from every corner of the globe with more “modern” sounding material.
Both Kagel and Ligeti regularly worked together with the Dutch conductor and pianist Reinbert de Leeuw, who remains a passionate advocate of their work to this day. With the Asko|Schönberg Ensemble which he founded, Reinbert de Leeuw will perform excerpts from Kagel’s ‘Stücke der Windrose’ and Ligeti’s ‘Kammerkonzert’ as part of Johan Simons’ new music theatre production ‘Die Fremden’ for the Ruhrtriennale 2016. De Leeuw conducts both works in their entirety in a concert in the Salzlager at Zeche Zollverein, Essen.
Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008)
Die Stücke der Windrose, für Salonorchester (extracts)