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Stockhausen was 23 years old when he composed this piece, scoring it for oboe, bass clarinet, piano and three percussionists. He conducted its premiere performance (Darmstadt, 1952), which ended in a scandal. The structure of the piece, consisting of three “stages,” the processes set in motion (clearly and precisely indicated in Stockhausen’s introduction) were evidently too new, too revolutionary. Now, 60 years later, Kreuzspiel is played the world over, from Tokyo to Sao Paulo to Lucerne, as a standard piece in the repertoire of modern classics.
The work consists of an interplay, a “crossing” or “intersecting” of “temporal and spatial processes” which are “simultaneously linked” in the third stage.