Thursday 29 June 2017
Bright spotlight on Stockhausen’s humour
Lucas and Arthur Jussen were the major surprise in the closing performance of the Holland Festival proms in the Concertgebouw. This is how to play Stockhausen in the 21st century.
A ferociously difficult piece
After this, the interpretation of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Mantra, given by the Jussen brothers, made a truly enormous impact. One cannot praise them highly enough for their guts in wanting to take on and perform this fiendishly difficult work, dating from 1970. It was an absolutely superb experience. The Concertgebouw was packed to the rafters with a mix of young and old, seasoned listeners and newcomers, and the audience was transfixed for 75 minutes by one of the most demanding pieces ever written for two pianos, percussion and electronics. Stockhausen sets out a musical obstacle course, with a surprising twist around every corner. It was quite enthralling that one’s thoughts were never for a second allowed to drift into any notions of dull and boring rhetoric during the Jussen brothers’ performance. They succeeded in plumbing the depths of the work’s theatricality, pianistic inventiveness and richness (a serialist entanglement of Bach, Debussy and Webern), while even shining a bright spotlight on Stockhausen’s sense of humour. Humour? Oh yes indeed! The moment when Lucas gave his brother Arthur ‘the finger’, at the end of the passage-work where they had been battling each other for who could play the highest notes, was one for the annals! This is the way to play Stockhausen in the twenty-first century. And – lo and behold – people really still enjoy it as well. Fantastic.
A highlight of the musical programming was the performance of Stockhausen’s Mantra by Lucas and Arthur Jussen, who had spent more than six months of hard labour getting to grips with the piece in preparation for performance. Their charisma, concentration and convincing piano playing achieved something that very few would have thought possible: a large audience thoroughly enjoying Stockhausen.
Erik Voermans / Het Parool, 26-6-2017