Last Sunday, we played Stockhausen’s “Gruppen” to a packed Royal Festival Hall as part of “The Rest is Noise” – the extraordinary year-long review of 20th century music at the South Bank Centre. There was an amazing vibe in the hall and the Stockhausen received a standing ovation after its second performance – serialism is alive! Many composers and figures of post-war music were in the audience, all above Nuria Schoenberg-Nono and Helmut Lachenmann. After the show, we went across the road to the Italian and Helmut and I started talking about “Gruppen”.
He knows it inside out of course and has analysed it many times. When we came to the famous bit in the middle with thebrass chords wandering around the three orchestras,
Helmut insisted that this part was really in b major… . He started to write the chords out
concluded that the passage really adds up to the famous jazz tune “Stompin at the Savoy”! I must admit I didn’t see it that way when I conducted it, but if he says.. Here is Benny Goodman’s version of the tune. And here, is “Gruppen” in its full length.
When I was on the way back to my hotel, I thought about Helmut, “Gruppen” and “Stompin at the Savoy”. I decided to cross the Thames and walk up the Strand, past the “Savoy” next to Charing Cross. The real “Savoy” in “Stompin at the Savoy” is in Chicago, of course, and I also have no idea if Lachenmann had a point and Stockhausen really thought oft that tune. But who cares. It was a great evening!