Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I guess that if you're a big name dead tree critic you can get away with just making stuff up. Here's a Norman Lebrecht column on Stockhausen with an astonishing number of simple factual errors. Here are a few --

"Gyorgy Ligeti, hearing the first broadcast in 1956 as Soviet tanks rolled through Budapest, fled the country and turned up at Stockhausen’s apartment, where he lived for several months." Ligeti and his wife fled to Vienna in December 1956; in February 1957, Ligeti went on alone to Cologne where he arrived first at Herbert Eimert's house, and then stayed for six weeks with Stockhausen.

"...in Hymnen (1968) he experimented with Indian mantras and Californian minimalism." (Has Lebrecht even heard Hymnen? Got it confused with Stimmung, a piece directly related to Stockhausen's contact with the music of La Monte Young?)

"In Wednesday, a string quartet tried to make itself heard from an airborne helicopter." (The quartet is distributed among four helicopters, and their radio signals are mixed together for the audience in the hall.)

"Isolated, adulated, fenced in by his own myth, he left the final two days of his opera unfinished and apparently unwanted. " (All seven operas of Licht were finished and the music had all been premiered; Stockhausen had moved on to near-completion of his next project, Klang, and plans for complete performances of the Licht cycle were in progress at the time of his death.)

Lebrecht also gets the history and rationale for Stockhausen's separation from UE and DG spectacularly wrong -- they were either unable or unwilling to produce the works in his desired formats, to do so in a timely fashion, or to keep the works in print and distributed. Further, his speculation about the future of the estate and works is completely misinformed, as Stockhausen, with excellent legal counsel, created a foundation for these purposes and secured (through agreement or buy-outs) the agreement of his heirs.

Finally, may I simply note that Stockhausen's demand to keep the recording of his interview with Lebrecht is entirely wise, and not the plea of an eccentric. If a journalist is prepared to go into hard print with as many errors as Mr Lebrecht produces here, then any interviewee damn well will want to have the recording for their own potential self-defense.

1 comment:

jodru said...

I was similarly astounded when I read his article. I don't get how this guy still gets published. His last book has been pulled from British shelves for being riddled with inaccuracies.