Mauricio Kagel – Fantasia for Organ (1967)

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Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008): Fantasia for organ with obbligati, per organo e nastro magnetico (1967).

Gerd Zacher, organo.

Obbligato signifies something necessary and Indispensable. The obbligati in Kagel’s organ work are, to that extent, its genuinely principal part, a kind of cantus firmus. They consist of tape recordings, preferably made by the organist himself, since they illustrate the acoustical background of his life. (In the present recording half of the obbligati were taped by Kagel and half by Gerd Zacher). These sounds on tape begin with falling rain, continuing with a running tap, a toilet being flushed, and the sound of a kettle boiling, after which water music we hear an egg-timer, toaster, and a morning news bulletin. This start of the day is followed by leaving the house and travelling by underground train; the sound of bells marks the arrival at church. Recordings from a Christening, a Wedding and a Memorial Service create the church atmosphere, also symbolizing further areas of the organist’s life.

Such musique concrete–in itself by no means obbligato–is put into its context by the strict musique abstraite of the Fantasia for Organ. This gives signifiance to the tape recordings by creating transitions between them, foreshadowing what is to come, and recollecting what is past. It gives musical continuity to the purely biographical tape recordings. The organ part takes the material of the obbligati back into terms of music in ever new ways. As the tape recordings resist such musical integration owing to their associative character, insisting on their own extra-musical connections, the dialectical linking of the two elements gives rise to a kind of musical “radio play”, in which the aural background to the organist’s intimate life penetrates Into the sphere of his official activities. [DG 137 003]

Cover image: painting by Gerhard Richter.

[Dedicated to Saori]

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