Majella Stockhausen – Klavierstück XII

November 18, 2010

I fell in love with Majella Stockhausen 25 years ago as a teenage engineering student at Edinburgh. It was entirely the result of a BBC radio broadcast of Majella performing Klavierstück XII, a composition her father wrote for her and which she premiered. I must have made a cassette recording of it.

It seems perhaps I never entirely got over Majella. Yesterday I came across a bunch of Stockhausen music in MP3 files. One of the pieces was Klavierstück XII recorded by Bernhard Wambach which I downloaded and listened to.

Oh my! I haven’t heard this piece for probably well over 20 years but I remembered it clearly and my heart swelled. It’s a great piece in its own right—lovely melodies and a rhythmic coherence to carry you along.

And it’s so theatrical! The vast majority of the piece is performed on the piano’s keyboard in conventional manner and that alone is theatrical. But the vocalizing adds another whole dimension. Mr. Wambach’s recording is reserved but, as I recall it, the young Majella’s in that BBC breadcast was sensational. I was captivated by her charisma, audacity and the uninhibited generosity of her performance. I fell in love.

I must have. What else could explain the joy and agony that swept over me yesterday as I listened to Mr. Wambach’s straight-laced, professional interpretation?

It dawned on me that I had never in all these years seen a photo of Majella. Back then we didn’t have the world wide web but we do now. Looking now at these three images, all early 80s photos of her playing Klavierstück XIII, it’s clear that my student engineer’s heart knew exactly what it was doing all those years ago. I wonder if I will ever get over Majella.

There is a recording of Majella playing Klavierstück XIII on Stockhausen Edition CD 33 but I can’t find any reference to a published recording of her playing XII. If only I still had that cassette.

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