When it was first heard in 1962, Mauricio Kagel’s organ piece Improvisation ajoutée created a scandal. The cause was clearly the sounds the organist and his two assistants were required to produce in addition to the sounds of the instrument – speaking, coughing, laughing, whistling, clapping, and above all loud groans and shouts. There is a further revolutionary innovation in Improvisation ajoutée: the two assistants arrange the organ’s registration, and even have a system of their own in the score. As a result, there are very fast shifts in registration and colour, which follow their own rhythm and are independent of the organist’s score.
The sound world of Kagel’s second work for organ, the Fantasie für Orgel mit Obbligati (from 1967), is less complex. However, Kagel gave the new work a social, cultural, and theatrical subtext in which the borders between “art” and “life” are crossed more resolutely, thereby establishing an entirely new type of complexity. The organ part is here supplemented by two tape recordings that acoustically depict the organist’s working day, somewhat like an “audio film”.
Dominik Susteck reflects on his experiences with Kagel’s organ works. In the spirit of Kagel, Susteck takes the chance material of the letters of Kagel’s name – “K-A-G-E-L” – as a challenge to his fantasy, and the titles that capture the basic ideas of the five improvisations have a “kagelesque” quality.
Choir & Organ February 2017
“This is not music for the fainted hearted! It is a truly remarkable and terrifying sound, particular with the enhanced possibilities afforded by the experimental organ in St Peters, Cologne – 3 out of 5 stars
Gramophone Magazine January 2017 “Captivating and spellbinding.
Sunday Times 24th July 2016
“Kagel’s music is nothing if not devastatingly direct social critique. The chaotic sounds, vocal and instrumental, of Improvisation ajoutée (1962) powerfully subvert religious grandiosity.