Recordando a Mauricio Kagel

Recordando a Mauricio Kagel…

1952… In Buenos Aires… A telephone call from Kagel. We did not know each other at the time. He was looking for a pianist that will agree to play Roger Session’s Second Piano Sonata. He told me, it was difficult but…someone has recommended me as a pianist interested in the modern repertoire. However, he did mention…»I will like to hear you playing…something modern…». And so, I went to his [parents] house in the Belgrano area, in Buenos Aires. I believe I played for him Webern’s Variations and perhaps Bartok or the Op. 19 by Schoenberg… Hmmm…He was giving me a test! I must have passed it because he gave me the job [a paid job for playing piano…at that time!]

He was at the time a student at the University of Buenos Aires, and was the concert organizer for the students union or similar. He was perhaps 18 years old [and me, only a year and a half older…]. Kagel was creative and ambitious in that job of organizing music events at the university. His series of concerts was titled «Music from North America». After the Roger Sessions work, he engaged me again to play some twelve tone pieces by George Perle. In short, Mauricio Kagel gave me my first professional job as a pianist in Argentina.

We run into each other several times more, when I started attending concerts or performing in concerts of the Agrupación Nueva Música, the avant garde group started by Juan Carlos Paz.

Around 1953 I applied for the position of co-repetiteur [rehearsal pianist for the opera and ballet], at the Teatro Colón. I got the job and to my surprise I realized that I was replacing Kagel, who had obtained a fellowship to go to Germany.

Then our lives and careers developed in different countries/continents: Kagel in Europe and me, from 1965 on, in New York. However, there were occasional encounters in new music festivals, Donaueschingen, Berlin, etc. I must recognize that his early ‘theatre pieces’ did influence me. Perhaps it was a natural development since we both had experienced ‘theater and music’ at the Colón, and as composers we both were eager to integrate those visual and dramatic aspects into our music.

Then there is his Ludwig van… While I was living in Berlin [West, at the time, 1972-73], with the DAAD fellowship, also know as the Berlin Art Program, I became aware of his Ludwig Van… I have seen the movie, got to hear the LP recording and bought the score [Universal]. Meg Sheppard and me were in Berlin and for a while also the trombonist composer Jim Fulkerson. We were all part of the NY group, the ‘composers/performers group’, and we were looking for new repertoire for our concert tours in Europe. It was Jim who suggested doing something with Ludwig Van… His proposal was just to play from the score. But, I thought it was possible to explore the ‘visual’, ‘theatrical’ possibilities. So I said, in brief: «Jim, Kagel did the film version, including the infamous ‘musikzimmer’, the Beethoven music room, with his music pasted all over, the music stand, the piano, floor, walls, ceiling… When Universal decided to release the score, Kagel went back to the set and took pictures of the music room, developed them and printed them in large size. Then he pasted them in some form of ondulating manner perhaps, ‘shaping’ them by cutting with scissors and…he took new pictures. And those are the ones in the score pages. I would like to do it in reverse, and ‘re-create’ the music room «. We got to work first by taking photos [slides] of all the score pages. I envisioned a performance using 5 slide projectors: two ‘created’ left and right walls by projecting on panels so positioned, one projected on the floor, one on the wall in back of the performs and the last one on the performers themselves. We were all wearing whitish clothing…even the grand piano was made ‘white’… [1]

We did that version in Sweden, Norway, Spain, Canada, etc. I have documented the making of ‘our’ Ludwig Van… and I wrote an article concerning that. One day. perhaps around 1990, once my article was published, I sent a copy to Mauricio to inform him, but also I was asking him a couple of questions. But, the time passed and no answer from him. Well.. surprise, about ten or twelve years later, a letter from Kagel! In short he said, ‘Alcides, sorry for the delay in answering your letter. These days I was cleaning and reorganizing my work room and desk and I found your letter. It is my conviction that all correspondence must be answered, even if such long time had passed. In reference at ‘your’ Ludwig Van…bravo! That was in a way my proposal for future performers, on releasing the score, for ‘other’ possible realizations.»

I saw Mauricio in Montreal, perhaps in the early 90s. I noticed then that…amazingly enough!…his Spanish sounded very accented. It was like talking to a German born person, who has acquired a good command of Spanish late in life, a few mispronounced words here and there, or some poorly phrased sentences… But, coming from Mauricio, with his penchant for ‘transformations’, everything is possib;le..!

{1] «Music Theatre: a mixed media realization of Kagel’s ludwig van…», Festival de Musiques Experimentales, GMEB, Bourges, France; Revue Faire 4/5

«Music Theatre: a mixed media realization of Kagel’s ludwig van…», Interface, Journal of New Music Research, Vol. 8, 1979; pages 237-248; Swets Publishing Service, 2160 AH LISSE, The Netherlands

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