Mauricio Kagel
Mauricio Kagel was a German
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

. He was notable for his interest in developing the theatrical side of musical performance
A performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people, the audience. Choral music and ballet are examples. Usually the performers participate in rehearsals beforehand. Afterwards audience...

 ([ Grimshaw 2009]).


Kagel was born in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

, Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, into a Jewish family which fled from Russia in the 1920s (Anon. [n.d.]). He studied music, history of literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, and philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

 (Grimshaw 2009). In 1957 he came as a scholar to Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

, Germany, where he lived until his death.

From 1960–66 and 1972–76, he taught at the International Summer School at Darmstadt (Attinello 2001).

He taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, also commonly known as the University at Buffalo or UB, is a public research university and a "University Center" in the State University of New York system. The university was founded by Millard Fillmore in 1846. UB has multiple campuses...

 from 1964 to 1965 as Slee Professor of music theory and at the Berlin Film and Television Academy
Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin
The Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin is a film school in Berlin, Germany.In the German film school ranking of FOCUS , the dffb - together with the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and the international filmschool cologne - were ranked as 2nd after the Film Academy Baden-Wuerttemberg...

 as a visiting lecturer. He served as director of courses for new music in Gothenburg
Gothenburg is the second-largest city in Sweden and the fifth-largest in the Nordic countries. Situated on the west coast of Sweden, the city proper has a population of 519,399, with 549,839 in the urban area and total of 937,015 inhabitants in the metropolitan area...

 and Cologne (Attinello 2001). He was professor for new music theatre at the Cologne Conservatory from 1974 to 1997.

Invited by Walter Fink
Walter Fink
Walter Fink is a German retired executive and a patron of Contemporary music. He is mostly known for being a founding member, Executive Committee member and sponsor of the Rheingau Musik Festival.- Biography :...

, he was the second composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival
Rheingau Musik Festival
The Rheingau Musik Festival is an international summer music festival in Germany, founded in 1987. It is mostly for classical music, but includes other genres...

 in 1991. In 2000 he received the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize
Ernst von Siemens Music Prize
The international Ernst von Siemens Music Prize is an annual music prize given by the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste on behalf of the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung , established in 1972. The foundation was established by Ernst von Siemens...


Among his students were Maria de Alvear
Maria de Alvear
Maria de Alvear is a Spanish-German composer living in Germany who was born to Spanish father and German mother.-References:*- External links :* * *...

, Carola Bauckholt
Carola Bauckholt
Carola Bauckholt is a German composer. She was born in Krefeld, Germany, She worked at the theater at the Marienplatz in Krefeld and studied music with Mauricio Kagel the Cologne Musikhochschule from 1978-84....

, Branimir Krstić, David Sawer
David Sawer
David Sawer is a British composer of opera and choral, orchestral and chamber music.-Biography:Sawer was born in Stockport, England. He studied music at the University of York where he began composing for contemporary music-theatre pieces. He continued his studies with Mauricio Kagel in Cologne...

, Rickard Scheffer, Juan Maria Solare
Juan María Solare
Juan María Solare is an Argentine composer and pianist.-Education:Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Solare studied and received his diploma in piano , composition and conducting at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música Carlos López Buchardo...

, Gerald Barry  and Chao-Ming Tung.

He died in Cologne on September 18, 2008 after a long illness, at the age of 76 (Nonnenmann 2008).


Many of his later pieces give specific theatrical instructions to the performers (Kennedy & Bourne Kennedy 2006), such as to adopt certain facial expressions while playing, to make their stage entrances in a particular way, to physically interact with other performers and so on. His work comparable to the Theatre of the Absurd
Theatre of the Absurd
The Theatre of the Absurd is a designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction, written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, as well as to the style of theatre which has evolved from their work...


Staatstheater (1971) is probably the piece that most clearly shows his absurdist tendency. This work is described as a "ballet
Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

 for non-dancers", though in many ways is more like an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

, and the devices it used as musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

s include chamber pot
Chamber pot
A chamber pot is a bowl-shaped container with a handle, and often a lid, kept in the bedroom under a bed or in the cabinet of a nightstand and...

s and even enema
An enema is the procedure of introducing liquids into the rectum and colon via the anus. The increasing volume of the liquid causes rapid expansion of the lower intestinal tract, often resulting in very uncomfortable bloating, cramping, powerful peristalsis, a feeling of extreme urgency and...

 equipment. As the work progresses, the piece itself, and opera and ballet in general, becomes its own subject matter. Similar is the radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

Play (theatre)
A play is a form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of scripted dialogue between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference whether their plays were performed...

 Ein Aufnahmezustand (1969) which is about the incidents surrounding the recording of a radio play.

Kagel also made film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

s, with one of the best known being Ludwig van (1970), a critical interrogation of the uses of Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

's music made during the bicentenary of that composer's birth (Griffiths 1978, 188). In it, a reproduction of Beethoven's studio is seen, as part of a fictive visit of the Beethoven House
Beethoven House
DetailsThe Beethoven House in Bonn, Germany, is a memorial site, museum and cultural institution serving various purposes. Founded in 1889 by the Beethoven-Haus association it studies the life and work of composer Ludwig van Beethoven.The centrepiece of the Beethoven-Haus is Beethoven's birthplace...

 in Bonn
Bonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located in the Cologne/Bonn Region, about 25 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999....

. Everything in it is papered with sheet music of Beethoven's pieces. The soundtrack of the film is a piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 playing the music as it appears in each shot. Because the music has been wrapped around curves and edges, it is somewhat distorted, but Beethovenian motifs can still be heard. In other parts, the film contains parodies of radio or TV broadcasts connected with the "Beethoven Year 1770". Kagel later turned the film into a piece of sheet music itself which could be performed in a concert without the film - the score consists of close-ups of various areas of the studio, which are to be interpreted by the performing pianist
A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...


Other pieces include Con Voce (With Voice), where a masked trio silently mimes playing instruments and Match (1964), a tennis game for cellists with a percussionist as umpire (Griffiths 1978, 188) (for Siegfried Palm
Siegfried Palm
Siegfried Palm was a German cellist who is known worldwide for his interpretations of contemporary music. Many 20th-century composers like Kagel, Ligeti, Xenakis, Penderecki and Zimmermann wrote music for him....

), also the subject of one of Kagel's films and perhaps the best-known of his works of instrumental theatre (Griffiths 1981, 812).

Kagel also wrote a large number of more conventional, "pure" pieces, including orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

l music, chamber music
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

, and film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 scores. Many of these also make references to music of the past by, amongst others, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, and Liszt (Warnaby 1981, 38; Decarsin 1985, 260).

He has been regarded by music historians as deploying a critical intelligence interrogating the position of music in society (Griffiths 1978, 188).

Stage works

  • Staatstheater (1967/70)
  • Mare nostrum, Scenic Play for countertenor, baritone, flute, oboe, guitar, harp, cello and percussion (1975)
  • Kantrimiusik, pastorale for voices and instruments (1975)

Vocal works

  • Fürst Igor – Strawinsky, a requiem for Igor Strawinsky for bass and instruments (1982)
  • Sankt-Bach-Passion for soloists, choirs and orchestra (premiered in 1985)
  • Mitternachtsstük for voices and instruments on four fragments from the diary of Robert Schumann
    Robert Schumann
    Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

  • Schwarzes Madrigal (Black madrigal), for choir, trumpet, tuba and 2 percussionists (1998/99)
  • In der Matratzengruft for tenor and ensemble (2008)


  • Dos piezas for orchestra (1952)
  • Heterophonie' for orchestra (1959-61)
  • Zehn Märsche, um den Sieg zu verfehlen (Ten marches in order to miss victory), for brass orchestra (1979)
  • Les idées fixes, rondo for orchestra (1988/89)
  • Opus 1.991 for orchestra (1990)
  • Konzertstück (Concert piece), for timpani and orchestra (1990–92)
  • Études for orchestra (I 1992, II 1995/96, III 1996)
  • Fremde Töne & Widerhall (Strange sounds and echo), for orchestra (2005)

Chamber music

  • Transición II for piano, percussion, and two tapes (1958-59)
  • Sonant for guitar, harp, contrabass, and skin instruments (1960)
  • Match for three players (1964)
  • String quartet No. 1 (1965)
  • Piano trio No. 1 (1985)
  • String quartet No. 2 (1967)
  • Morceau de Concours for 1 or 2 trumpets (1968–1972)
  • Pan a tutti i Papagheni, for piccolo and string quartet (1985)
  • String quartet No. 3 (1986)
  • String quartet No. 4 (1993)
  • Schattenklänge, three pieces for bass clarinet (1995)
  • Art bruit for a percussionist and an assistant (1994/95)
  • Piano trio No. 2, completed 11 September 2001
  • Phantasiestück for flute and piano


  • Acustica for experimental sound-producers and loud-speakers (1968–1970)
  • Dressur, trio for wood percussion (1977)
  • Rrrrrrr..., six duos for two percussionists (1982)

Further reading

  • Kunkel, Michael, and Martina Papiro (eds.). 2009. Der Schall: Mauricio Kagels Instrumentarium. Saarbrücken: Pfau-Verlag.
  • Steenhuisen, Paul. 2009. "Interview with Mauricio Kagel". In Sonic Mosaics: Conversations with Composers. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press. ISBN 978-0888644749.

External links

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