Mauricio Kagel


21 Nov 1998 - 30 May 1999

In November 1998 the foundation that annually awards the Erasmus Prize celebrated its fortieth year of existence. In connection with this anniversary, which is being celebrated nationally with a range of cultural activities, De Pont is giving consideration to the 1998 prizewinner, the composer Mauricio Kagel who lives and works in Germany. Kagel's Zwei-mann-Orchester will be on view in Tilburg until mid June. During this period the work will be played on a regular basis by two members of the Schönberg Ensemble: Ger de Zeeuw and Steef Gerritse. This will take place on the last Sunday of every month, always at 12:30 pm. Each performance will last approximately forty-five minutes.

Zwei-Mann-Orchester, which is the property of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, consists of a jumble of about 250 musical instruments and other `tools', particularly from the agricultural and medical sectors. When the work is played, two musicians take seats in the middle of the construction and are connected with the greater part of the instruments by means of cords. Almost completely encased by some instruments and, at the same time, quite removed from others, these musicians are meant to steer all these instruments and make them resound. A nearly impossible task, it is nonetheless attempted in all seriousness - and here lurks the humor which is not uncharacteristic of Kagel.

Mauricio Kagel was born in Buenos Aires in 1931. In 1958 he came to Germany on a scholarship and has been living and working there ever since. His work is distinguished by considerable diversity. Though music is a key element in all of his work, Kagel is also active as a filmmaker, producer of works on stage, philosopher and man of letters. Zwei-Mann-Orchester was the outcome of a request, which Kagel received from the producer of the Donaueschinger Musiktage in 1972, to make a work that would deal with the issue of the symphony orchestra in a changing world. These were the years of the increasing use of electronics in music, of increasing concern for small unconventional ensembles and for non-Western music. All of these developments constituted a threat to the symphony orchestra: to the late-nineteenth-century, sizeable musical ensemble of an established nature, which was no longer interesting to countercultural, `critical' society.

Kagel found his inspiration in the idea of the one-man band, the `Teufelsgeiger'. To him, the question was just how many more instruments could be rigged up to the player without compromising on musicality. The performances on Zwei-Mann-Orchester come about through the use of Kagel's score by the same name (published by Universal Edition, 1973), in which all sorts of ingredients - divided into the chapters Melody, Harmony, Rhythm and Physical Movements - are described in detail. By creating a plan with these ingredients and performing this from memory , the musicians achieve a very precise result.

The sight of Zwei-Mann-Orchester can easily bring to mind the image of a flea market or a rubbish heap, and a sense of `tristesse'. Such feelings do make up the background of the work. Kagel has emphatically dedicated Zwei-Mann-Orchester to the symphony orchestra; it is his salute to an ensemble that was on the verge of extinction.