Before this all-Stockhausen release, there were four recordings of Refrain, two of Kontra-Punkte, and one each of the Schlagtrio and Zeitmasze, and this 2009 Wergo disc, performed by the Ensemble Recherche, adds one more version of each work. They are stupendous performances, which are not only played with supreme virtuosity, but interpreted with infinite understanding. Listeners will be able to appreciate not just Stockhausen's intellectual skill as a composer, but also his uncanny sense of sound, balance, and meaning. Building on the later works of Anton Webern, the young Stockhausen created his own musical world full of precisely calibrated effects and deeply felt gestures. Though some listeners may find this music close to unlistenable because of its starkly expressionist content and rigorously non-tonal harmonic structures, it deserves the attention of anyone with an interest in the musical avant-garde of the mid-20th century. Wergo's digital sound is absolutely translucent and vividly present.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard