Thursday 29 June 2017
A breathtaking ‘Mantra’ from the Jussen brothers
Holland Festival Proms
An audience of 2000, sitting as quietly as mice for an hour and a half, listening to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s ‘Mantra’. This proved to be possible on Saturday evening at the Holland Festival Proms, thanks to the breathtaking playing of the piano duo Arthur and Lucas Jussen. Quite an achievement, as the stubborn, avant-garde serialist composer Stockhausen was definitely not writing for a large audience. There were several reasons why the Jussens attracted a full hall for ‘Mantra’ and were given a rapturous ovation. One of these was that the arena in the main hall of the Concertgebouw had been cleared of seats, allowing the audience to recline on beanbags while listening to the performance. Also, the popularity of the Jussen brothers played its part.
They really know how to captivate an audience, and did so with their mesmerising, theatrical piano playing. They’d been studying for many hours a day over seven months for this one-off performance. Not only were there major technical demands behind the performance of all these difficult and unpredictable notes, but they also needed daring, concentration and logistical insight in order to play not only 88 keys in the piano but also the percussion instruments and the controls for ring modulators, which electronically distorted the piano sounds.
‘Mantra’ is a highly complex composition. The ingenious tonal structures are quite difficult to grasp for any listener who is not a devotee, but thanks to the Jussens, it became quite clear that the work is suffused with inherent logic on the grand scale. In addition to some violent eruptions of sound, silences and tonal nuances meant that listening to ‘Mantra’ almost turned into a mystical experience.
Christo Lelie / Trouw , 26-6-2017