Live: Travellers' tales

Mauricio Kagel QEH, London

IT HAS always struck me as odd that the music of Mauricio Kagel has never caught on in this country. Can the reason be harshness on the part of a too critical music press, scant recognition from the BBC, or something more mysterious? For it is mysterious that the work of a composer so steeped in irony and understatement should fail to register with a musical public here.

But that might be part of the question (or answer). Kagel has always been a figure of contradiction, the greatest contradiction, perhaps, is that his music may appeal more to a literary-based public than a musical one, although a music-based public that is steeped in Mahler should surely be attracted to a music that arguably springs from a similar source.

Kagel, a Jew, was born in Argentina on Christmas Eve, 1931. Unlike most Jews post-war, he chose to live in Germany. He has based himself in Cologne since 1957.

The London Sinfonietta, in two concerts, has offered a small retrospective, the first conducted by Oliver Knussen, the second concert, directed by the Dutch conductor, Reinbert de Leeuw, a long-term advocate of Kagel's music.

Kagel's music is informed by Jewish sensibilities: subtleties of contradiction; ambivalence, perception, deception, provocation. His music is political, disturbing and funny.

On Tuesday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, De Leeuw took us through Kagel's magical travelogue, The Compass Rose, for salon orchestra. The eight movements visit the geographical areas of the North, South, East, West, South-West, North-East etc, but not necessarily from the point of view of the Northern Hemisphere.

Flirting with forgotten or imaginary evocations of folk and popular music, the whole cycle is teasingly economic. The same instrumentation is used throughout - clarinet, piano, harmonium, two violins, viola, cello and double bass - with only the percussionist changing instruments from piece to piece.

For a composer so steeped in film and theatre, it comes as no surprise that each "point" is so visual, music in search of a silent film with all the necessary plots, excursions, evocative moods and contrasts. Kagel's journey which has no pre-ordained order, spans the planet from "somewhere between Trans-Carpathia and the Gulf of Finland".

Kagel's ear for colour is extraordinary - water poured from a jug, the breaking of polystyrene, the rustling of a branch, the chopping of an axe, attention drawn to the sound rather than the gesture. Whimsical it is not. Bitter-sweet it is.

The clarinettist, Mark van de Wiel and percussionist, David Hockings were remarkable. A small audience loved it.

Annette Morreau

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk