Between 1952 and 1961, Stockhausen composed a series of 11 piano pieces, mostly quite brief, which he later referred to as his “drawings”. In them he tested out the techniques that he used to such spectacular effect in his large-scale works of that period, and which took him stylistically on a rapid development from the pointillism of total serialism, through the concepts of musical groups and moments to his exploration of mobile forms that left many organisational decisions to the performer.
Much later in his career he would produce another eight piano pieces, all either conceived as part of his week-long opera cycle Licht or derived from music in it. But it’s the ground-breaking Klavierstücke from the 1950s that Vanessa Benelli Mosell, who studied with Stockhausen in the final years of his life, concentrates on here. She plays eight of them – omitting the two longest, the sixth and the monumental 10th, as well as the 11th, with its maze of alternative musical paths for the pianist to take – and ends with what’s perhaps the most notorious of all of them, Klavierstück IX, in which the opening chord is repeated obsessively 139 times, which seems like an early exercise in minimalism, though the music’s subsequent journey through a forest of trills is anything but minimalist.
Mosell confronts this music fearlessly, shaping the smaller-scale pieces (the shortest, Klavierstück III, lasts just 38 seconds) as elegantly as she can, taking their technical challenges in her stride and above all conveying the sense of cutting-edge invention and innovation that is so characteristic of Stockhausen’s early music.
The rest of her debut disc for Decca, though, is disappointing. It carries the title [R]evolution, though in piano terms there’s nothing particularly iconoclastic about the two works that follow the Stockhausen. The three-movement Suite by the French composer Karol Beffa (born 1973) is anodyne and utterly unremarkable, even though Mosell doesn’t seem to make as much of the music’s colouristic potential as she might, while her account of Stravinsky’s Petrushka Movements sometimes seems less of a performance than an assault, and a rough-edged and rhythmically slapdash one at that. The energy and enthusiasm that make her Stockhausen playing so arresting seem to be applied much less precisely elsewhere. (The Guardian)