LONDON — Calling for no fewer than three orchestras and a complete of 109 gamers, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Gruppen” is without doubt one of the 20th century’s most monumental items of music. Yet at a rehearsal this week for a Saturday efficiency at Tate Modern in London, there have been solely three musicians within the room: the conductors Simon Rattle, Matthias Pintscher and Duncan Ward.
“Gruppen” (1955-57) is a problem for conductors. In a normal orchestra piece, there may be one maestro on the rostrum, main all of the gamers. But in “Gruppen,” every orchestra performs at a special tempo, and so they can simply fall out of sync. So three days earlier than the Tate live performance by gamers of the London Symphony Orchestra (L.S.O.), the three conductors met to coordinate their approaches.
Pencils in hand, they laid out their scores on a desk and mimicked their orchestras’ components in a cacophony of hummed notes, whoops, grunts, bleats and birdlike sounds — and each on occasion, in unison, a triumphant “Bang!”
“The minute we’re in there, it will be such a shock for everybody!” stated Mr. Rattle, the L.S.O.’s music director, referring to Tate Modern’s postindustrial Turbine Hall, the place the three orchestras will encompass a standing viewers.
Mr. Rattle described “Gruppen,” which implies “groups” in German, as “irritatingly complex.”
Stockhausen left detailed pointers. In the rating, he specified the precise variety of rehearsal hours that gamers had put in earlier than the primary efficiency in 1958. There have been six conductors-only rehearsals of two hours every.
By Stockhausen’s requirements, not plenty of preparation has gone into the Tate live performance: one conductors-only rehearsal, at some point of separate rehearsals by every conductor and ensemble in venues throughout London, and at some point of mixed rehearsals at Tate Modern.
Not that the piece will ever be simple, Mr. Rattle stated.
“Each orchestra is very complicated on its own, but when you put the three together, it’s like this dizzying tessellation of rhythms and sounds,” Mr. Rattle stated on on the second rehearsal day, as he practiced together with his ensemble at L.S.O. St. Luke’s, a music training middle in a disused 18th-century church. It meant “coordinating all these desperately complicated rhythms and cues, and not losing your head, and being able to see each other from a distance.”
Mr. Rattle — who just ended a 16-year stint as creative director of the Berlin Philharmonic — stated he acquired the concept for the “Gruppen” efficiency on a go to to Tate Modern together with his artist son about 5 years in the past, once they each stood on a footbridge overlooking the Turbine Hall. He stated the house, which often hosts massive site-specific artwork installations, was “so glorious, it demands that you do as so many artists have done: that you do something extraordinary there.”
His hope was to lure crowds to new music the way in which Tate Modern had drawn them to modern artwork. “People very happily go to the most avant-garde art exhibitions and get what they can out of it,” he stated. “This type of really difficult contemporary music is something that you actually have to seduce people to come to.”
Across city at a people artwork middle in North London, Mr. Ward rehearsed together with his orchestra. The L.S.O.’s gamers come extremely ready and are used to rehearsals that proceed “at breakneck speed,” he stated in an interview afterward. And he and his fellow conductors have all carried out the piece earlier than: “We know the problem spots, and we know how to fix them.”
Two of the three conductors stated that they had met Stockhausen, who died in 2007 at age 79.
The composer attended a “Gruppen” efficiency by Mr. Rattle and wrote him a letter — which Mr. Rattle described as “incredibly generous” — approving his choice to increase the piece’s tempos to make them extra expressive. He additionally stated it was needed for the conductor to tune all of the tom-tom drums along with the devices’ gamers no less than an hour earlier than the efficiency, and requested if Mr. Rattle had executed so.
“Of course, no, I didn’t, and he could hear that,” Mr. Rattle stated. “He knew exactly what he wanted.”
By distinction, Mr. Pintscher’s expertise of assembly Stockhausen was “not the happiest of encounters,” he recalled after his orchestra’s rehearsal in South London. Mr. Pintscher is the music director of Ensemble Intercontemporain — a recent music group based by Pierre Boulez, who performed one of many orchestras for the primary efficiency of “Gruppen.” He recalled assembly Stockhausen at a efficiency of one among his personal compositions.
“In his old age, he was very maestro, he was very guru, he was very much in his own world,” Mr. Pintscher stated. “I was introduced to him as a young man, and he couldn’t care less.”
He described Stockhausen as an “absolutely tremendous” determine within the historical past of music, and added, “I don’t need to have liked him, or need him to have liked me.”
As the three conductors ready to rehearse the following day with all 109 gamers at Tate Modern, there was some nervousness within the air.
“None of us knows what it’s going to be like when we’re in the Tate and we’re far away,” stated Mr. Rattle. “We won’t necessarily hear what’s coming from the other orchestras.”
While “Gruppen” may sound chaotic and free, he famous, it was “almost fascistically ordered.” Arising from the desolation of postwar Germany, it was “an attempt to put some kind of order on a musical world after this total disorder had happened.”
Somewhere in Stockhausen’s thoughts, Mr. Rattle concluded, “there was this idea that we will create this new music which is utterly not to do with the history that came before it.”