Most of Stockhausen’s music was conceived in terms of abstract sound patterns and textures that are full of volatility and challenge. His piano pieces, on the other hand, are relatively transparent, melodic and accessible. They articulate a terse lyricism and autumnal mood that has much in common with the second Viennese school of Schonberg, Berg and Webern. Stockhausen used space differently from most other composers. He was unafraid to expand the gaps between notes, creating enigmatic modulations of time and tempo. One might also note the emotional modulation inherent in these compositions, which is both bracing and affecting. The late Elisabeth Klein was ideally suited to interpret this music, having played it for three decades and having been aesthetically and conceptually in tune with other modernist masters like Pierre Boulez and Per Norgard. She is not as aggressive as other pianists from a percussive standpoint, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, and accounts for the open sound feeling she evokes. And while she respects the icy contours of Stockhausen’s precisely notated works, she also lets in a touch of contrapuntal warmth. Hers is an original and effective take on these seminal piano pieces.
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