June 14, 2024


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Markus Stockhausen with Karlheinz Stockhausen: Video

I grew up in my mother’s house in Cologne-Marienburg. My parents separated when I was at the early age of seven. Every now and then my father came to visit or stay the night, but he had built a house of his own in the “Bergisches Land” where I visited him countless times in the following years, mostly at weekends and often accompanied by friends. We spent many an hour playing in the woods, building camps and enjoying the sauna…

I have little memory of my father during the previous years when my parents lived together in Cologne-Braunsfeld. He was often away. When I was five our family travelled to the USA and spent six months in Long Island near New York. My father had been invited there by an amateur composer. As a broker he had earned a lot of money and bought himself a palatial house previously owned by the Rothschilds. It was here that we were accommodated and in return my father gave him lessons in composition.
As my father began to show more and more interest in me as a musician, time spent with him became considerably more exciting. At six years of age I had begun playing the piano. The results were average and I showed no particular interest. That changed when I began to play the trumpet at 12. Soon I was playing in several bands, in a symphonic wind orchestra, I played from the church steeples at Christmas, joined church processions, played in a brass quintet, big band and dance music just to mention a few. My idols were famous jazz trumpeters, initially Louis Armstrong then Freddie Hubbard, later Miles Davis and trumpeters like Art Farmer, Palle Mikkelborg, Kenny Wheeler and others. Later they were naturally joined by the “king of classical trumpet” Maurice Andre.


When I was sixteen years old my father took me with him to Paris. He was rehearsing HYMNEN with the Conservatory orchestra and I was allowed to sit beside the trumpeters and play with them. At 18 I accompanied him to London where we recorded his piece of text ZUGVOGEL – my first experience with intuitive music – at Chrysalis Records. Although a pop label, Chrysalis very much wanted my father’s involvement. In the Spring of 1976 my schooling was almost completed and the rehearsals for SIRIUS, a comprehensive work for four soloists and electronic music, in which I was invited to participate, began at the WDR in Cologne. On 4th July 1976 we performed the world premiere of the first completed section of SIRIUS in the Einstein Spacearium in Washington D.C. as part of the United States Bicentennial. This was followed by a first international tour to Japan, Italy and France. The work then grew to its complete length of 96 minutes and was performed for the first time in the beautiful monastery of St. Louis in Aix en Provence in the summer of 1977.
I must add that we children were always allowed to take turns in accompanying our father on his concert tours. I remember the indescribable soprano Martina Arroyo during a European tour of MOMENTE. At thirteen I was taken on a seven-week journey to Bali and Japan with my father. He had conceived the music for the German Pavilion at the EXPO 70 in Osaka. This for me was the wide world! Every morning I wandered past the 180 pavilions and absorbed music and cultural impressions from around the globe and during the afternoon I listened to his composition interpreted by more than 20 musicians and supported by a considerable amount of electronic music. These impressions were wonderful and worked deeply on me! I will never forget further concert tours such as one to Lebanon in 1969, where he gave concerts in the amazing caves of Jeita, with visits to Baalbek and Palmyra or, a trip to Persia in 1972 when he gave concerts for two weeks at the Shiraz Festival which included performances in the unforgettable antique ruins of Persepolis.


My father had observed me during the work on SIRIUS and his trust in my musical talent was established. He had by this time also asked me to participate in several performances of STERNKLANG in Paris and Bonn. Now he ventured to compose the quasi trumpet concerto MICHAEL’s JOURNEY ROUND THE WORLD for me. The premiere with the Ensemble Intercontemporain took place in October of 1978 in Donaueschingen with follow up concerts in Straßburg and then at the newly created IRCAM in Paris which was founded under the patronage of my godfather Pierre Boulez.

I was intended to conduct the piece with movements of the trumpet and so I led the first rehearsals in Paris alone, my father having sent me ahead. In addition to this challenge I was confronted with the French language…oh, dear, I was out of my depth… Pierre Boulez came into a rehearsal, watched me for a moment and said: “This won’t work.” He called my father, told him to come immediately and direct the piece himself. And that’s what happened. Peter Eötvös took over the sound direction, which my father had intended doing. I was relieved that now I could concentrate on the trumpet part, difficult enough in itself.

What an experience! Surrounded by highly talented musicians and me, a 21 year-old fledgling in the middle… My trumpet training in Germany with Robert Platt had given me a good foundation, but he knew little about modern trumpet technique. For this I had to seek elsewhere. Pierre Thibaud, whom I met in Paris in 1978, was a wonderful teacher. Others followed.

I had always played jazz and improvisation parallel to classical music. The amazing Manfred Schoof was my teacher of jazz in Cologne and it was this “other approach” in handling the instrument that also helped me when playing the music of my father. While improvising, freed from the restriction of a score, I found myself able to play things I would never have achieved, had they been written down. I was often astonished at this difference and the range of feeling that came to life while playing, but with the passing of time I managed to reconcile the various possibilities within me and recognized how the different styles augmented and enriched each other.


In the following years a wide range of music was composed for trumpet because my father had begun the opera cycle LICHT (LICHT). MICHAEL’s JOURNEY was the first part, composed using his “super-formula” and being the instrument of Michael, the trumpet was to play a central role. The premiere of THURSDAY from LIGHT in 1981 at the Scala in Milan was the first outstanding culmination of LIGHT. To learn the whole opera off by heart and then appear on the stage in a costume and move – while playing the trumpet – in accordance with a fixed choreography… that was really something new!
For ten weeks we lived in Milan, not a beautiful city in Winter, grey, rainy… rehearsals the whole day. I learnt a lot, including Italian. The musicians in the orchestra were friendly to us, the set designer Gae Aulenti and the director Luca Ronconi were impressive personalities. My father had continuing conflicts with the artistic direction and had to fight hard to achieve his aims, he also gave numerous interviews… the days were full to the brim.
Nine performances were scheduled. On the day of the premiere I unfortunately had to play with a severe bronchitis. I had completely burnt myself out during the final rehearsals of the individual acts. Because of stage-technical problems on one particular day, the second act – my trumpet concerto – had to be rehearsed three times in a row. I played the various stages of MICHAEL journey from different openings in a rotating nine-metre diameter globe with a pitching axis. Pure acrobatics, but I enjoyed it immensely.


As the Stockhausen-Ensemble we gave many concerts in the whole world after this. The composition TIERKREIS was performed at least a hundred times in a trio version with Kathinka Pasveer on the flute, Suzanne Stephens on the clarinet and with me on the trumpet and piano. In 1984 the premiere of SATURDAY from LICHT took place in the Palazzo dello Sport, an enormous hall in Milan. I had a short, neck-breaking section to play, the OBERLIPPENTANZ for piccolo trumpet. It was neck-breaking not only because the piece was extremely hard to play, but also because I was being moved up and down the hall on a film dolly without a railing and engaged in a musical conflict with two Lucifer figures on four-metre stilts, standing directly in front of the vertically situated Michigan Symphony Band. I was, however, in my element!

In 1985 THURSDAY from LIGHT was again elaborately staged, now at the opera in Covent Garden, London. The musical quality was excellent. Unfortunately not all of the singers from Milan could participate so renewed rehearsals were necessary.

I chose not to be involved in the next opera MONDAY from LIGHT as it was becoming all too much. In 1986, however, my father took my sister Majella and me on a wonderful journey through India and here, after giving three concerts in Calcutta, Bombay and New Delhi, we were able to immerse ourselves in the Indian culture.

In 1989 came then HYMNEN, the soloist version in the Barbican Centre in London – a further chapter in which, together with my brother Simon, Andreas Boettger and Ingo Metzmacher, we composed and improvised music that harmonized with my father’s electronic music. We often played this version among others at the Festspiele in Salzburg. Also in 1989 we recorded the soloist’s version of MICHAELS JOURNEY for ECM, and toured all over Italy performing in beautiful theatres.

This was followed by discussions concerning the next opera TUESDAY from LIGHT dedicated to the theme of war, the confrontation between Michael and Lucifer. I hesitated as to whether I should be involved (chiefly in terms of content) but finally agreed. Interesting sections for three and also nine trumpets were born, fully composed and then given staged choreography in the form of dueling instrumental groups. In addition to this came PIETÀ for quartertone flugelhorn, soprano and electronic music. The premiere was in 1993 at the Opera in Leipzig. PIETA was conceived in 1991 in a log cabin in Sweden, where my father and I spent ten days alone. He composed on a daily basis and I made suggestions for melodious fragments with quartertones that he then incorporated into the compositions. I practiced, went running and cooked for the two of us. Peace was among us. It was a beautiful, intimate time, perhaps the last opportunity to be so close.

In 1995 the trumpet quartet “Die Michaelstrompeter” was born, for which my father composed the piece TRUMPETENT. It is a curious work with movement inside and around the concert hall, executed by the four trumpeters. At the end we come together in a tent and play the final with only the trumpet bells protruding through holes in the material. During the applause at the premiere in the Cologne Philharmonic in 1996 my son Arjan – around three-years-old at the time – came running onto the stage and into the tent. He crawled onto the floor and pocked his head out from under the tarpaulin and peered at the audience. This was met with roars of laughter and more applause. Only my father seemed slightly irritated.

In 1998 to commemorate my father’s 70th birthday I recorded the CD “Stockhausen plays Stockhausen” for EMI Classics. Here I presented the trumpet version of IN FREUNDSCHAFT (IN FRIENDSHIP). Looking back I consider this piece to be among the most difficult of all, also in regard to learning off by heart. But I was ambitious and wanted to get to grips with something that clarinet and flute had already played with more ease. For this piece I developed an E-flat trumpet with a specially designed valve to lower the trumpet by a fourth. The premiere took place in 1998 during the first Stockhausen courses in Kürten.


In 2001 relations with my father became strained. I felt clearly that the time for me to follow my own path had arrived. My father’s personality was strong and often controversial which led to my need for distance. In terms of musical experience I felt I had sounded out the possibilities and felt no inclination to work on further compositions. As chance would have it I communicated this to him, one week before he caused a faux pas in Hamburg. In a press conference he had commented on the terrible events of 9/11 in New York without weighing his words and, in addition, the journalists quoted him incorrectly. Everything was in upheaval and my rejection added to this tumult.
In the following years we drifted further apart, something which I never intended. My offers to meet and talk things through found no response. He was disappointed and hurt by the fact that I no longer wished to make music with him and I was too shy to simply go to him and clarify everything. The few visits that took place were rather formal and polite, some with my son Arjan. It was important for me that contact to his grandfather be not broken. And so our relationship ended unresolved when, on Dec. 5th, 2007 he died unexpectedly while I was far away on a tour in Chile. Afterwards we often met in dreams. These meetings were reconciliatory, did me good and enabled a harmony independent of time and space, a harmony that I continue to embrace and feel will last forever.

I am grateful to Marco Blaauw who took over my trumpet role in the Ensemble in 2002 and who teaches at the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten to this day. I am infinitely grateful to my father for unforgettable events, immensely valuable musical experience and deeply moving moments such as when I played trumpet next to him while he conducted. There was a deeply felt union with him both in human as well as musical terms. He was an extremely generous man, with an indescribable humour and a perfectionist in every respect. This was not always easy for those around him but it did provide incentive and whoever had the necessary energy could – in his vicinity – develop on many levels. The warmest of thanks to you, Papa, Karlheinz, Sirius.

Markus Stockhausen

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