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Harlequin in German itinerant theatre Johann Friedrich Muller als Harlekin.jpg
Harlequin in German itinerant theatre

Harlekin (Harlequin) is a composition for unaccompanied clarinet by Karlheinz Stockhausen, named for the commedia dell'arte character Harlequin. It was composed in 1975 and is Number 42 in his catalogue of works. A shorter, derived work called Der kleine Harlekin is Number 42½.



Harlekin was composed for the clarinetist Suzanne Stephens to dance to her own playing. It was begun at Easter 1975 in Morocco, and completed on Christmas Eve of the same year on Big Corn Island off the coast of Nicaragua. [1] In an interview from October 1984, Stockhausen recalled the circumstances: "I can see it in front of me. A rocky shore with a small restaurant on it, and the timber house where I wrote most of HARLEKIN. I can see the oil that was poured on the floor to fight those horrid cockroaches". [2] The work was premiered on 7 March 1976 in the Große Sendesaal of the WDR in Cologne by Suzanne Stephens. Although intended primarily for a dancing clarinetist, it can also be performed as "pure" music, in which case the notated dance rhythms are to be played on tabla, a Kandy drum, or similar drum. It may also be performed by a clarinetist at the side of the stage on which a dancer performs the choreography. There is an arrangement for flute, as well. [3]


Suzanne Stephens, for whom Harlekin was written Suzanne Stephens 1990.tif
Suzanne Stephens, for whom Harlekin was written

Harlekin is composed using formula technique and falls into seven sections, which are played without a break:

  1. Der Traumbote (The Dream Messenger)
  2. Der spielerische Konstrukteur (The Playful Constructor)
  3. Der verliebter Lyriker (The Enamored Lyric)
  4. Der pedantische Lehrer (The Pedantic Teacher)
  5. Der spitzbübische Joker (The Roguish Joker)
  6. Der leidenschaftliche Tänzer (The Passionate Dancer)
  7. Der exaltierte Kreiselgeist (The Exalted Spinning Spirit)

Part 6 is subdivided into two parts, titled "Dialog mit einem Fuß" (Dialog with a Foot) and "Harlekins Tanz" (Harlequin's Dance).

The whole work is composed as a single large wave. [4] The work is based on a melodic formula first exposed in its full form in section 3, "Der verliebte Lyriker". Up to this point, the melody is gradually evolved, and from here onward it is composed out in a variety of ways. [5] The cyclic compositional processes are associated with rotating movements by the performer, which recall the rotating movements of electronic sounds in Kontakte , and the improvised motions produced by use of the "sound mill" in the spherical auditorium of the German Pavilion at Expo '70 in Osaka. [6] The duration is 45 min. [7]

Der kleine Harlekin

"Harlequin's Dance", the second subsection of part 6, became an independent piece with the title Der kleine Harlekin, and was given the work-number 42½. This piece was premiered by Suzanne Stephens on 3 August 1977 at the Centre Sirius in Aix-en-Provence. Like the parent composition, Der kleine Harlekin is meant for a dancing clarinetist, but can be performed as a duo by a clarinetist and a dancer, or a clarinetist and a drummer. It also has been arranged for flute. [8]



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Formula composition is a serially derived technique encountered principally in the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, involving the projection, expansion, and Ausmultiplikation of either a single melody-formula, or a two- or three-voice contrapuntal construction.


Ausmultiplikation is a German term used by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen to describe a technique in which a long note is replaced by shorter "melodic configurations, internally animated around central tones", resembling the ornamental technique of divisions in Renaissance music. Stockhausen first described this technique in connection with his "opus 1", Kontra-Punkte, composed in 1952–53, but in his later formula composition there is a related method of substituting a complete or partial formula for a single very long tone in a much slower, "more background" projection of the formula. When this is done at more than one level, the result is reminiscent of a fractal.

Collegium Vocale Köln

Collegium Vocale Köln is a German vocal ensemble, founded in 1966 as a quintet when its members were still students at the Rheinische Musikschule in Cologne. It is directed by Wolfgang Fromme, who also sings tenor in the ensemble. They are best known as the group for which Karlheinz Stockhausen composed Stimmung in 1968, a work which they had performed more than three hundred of times throughout the world by 1986. The original impetus for the ensemble's founding, however, was an appearance by Alfred Deller at the Cologne Courses for Early Music, and the group has always performed both early and contemporary works.


Kontakte ("Contacts") is an electronic music work by Karlheinz Stockhausen, realized in 1958–60 at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) electronic-music studio in Cologne with the assistance of Gottfried Michael Koenig. The score is Nr. 12 in the composer's catalogue of works, and is dedicated to Otto Tomek.

<i>Amour</i> (Stockhausen)

Amour is a cycle of five pieces for clarinet by Karlheinz Stockhausen, composed in 1974–76. The composer thought of each piece as a gift for a close friend. The cycle is given the number 44 in Stockhausen's catalogue of works.


Hymnen is an electronic and concrete work, with optional live performers, by Karlheinz Stockhausen, composed in 1966–67, and elaborated in 1969. In the composer's catalog of works, it is Nr. 22.

<i>Montag aus Licht</i>

Montag aus Licht is an opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a greeting, three acts, and a farewell, and was the third of seven to be composed for the opera cycle Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche. The libretto was written by the composer.

<i>In Freundschaft</i>

In Freundschaft is a composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen, number 46 in his catalogue of works, which is playable on a wide variety of solo instruments. It was first performed on a clarinet on 28 July 1977.


Jubiläum (Jubilee) is an orchestral composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen, work-number 45 in the composer's catalogue of works.

<i>Samstag aus Licht</i>

Samstag aus Licht is an opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a greeting and four scenes, and was the second of seven to be composed for the opera cycle Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche. It was written between 1981 and 1983, to a libretto written by the composer and incorporating a text by Saint Francis of Assisi, and was first staged in Milan in 1984.

<i>Donnerstag aus Licht</i>

Donnerstag aus Licht is an opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a greeting, three acts, and a farewell, and was the first of seven to be composed for the opera cycle Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche. It was written between 1977 and 1980, with a libretto by the composer.

<i>Dienstag aus Licht</i>

Dienstag aus Licht is an opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a greeting and two acts, with a farewell, and was the fourth of seven to be completed for the opera cycle Licht: Die sieben Tage der Woche. It was begun in 1977 and completed from 1988 to 1991, to a libretto by the composer.

<i>Musik im Bauch</i>

Musik im Bauch is a piece of scenic music for six percussionists and music boxes composed by Karlheinz Stockhausen in 1975, and is Number 41 in his catalog of works. The world premiere was presented on 28 March 1975 as part of the Royan Festival. The performance was given by Les Percussions de Strasbourg in the haras in the town of Saintes, near to Royan. Its duration is roughly 38 minutes.


Zeitmaße is a chamber-music work for five woodwinds composed in 1955–1956 by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen; it is Number 5 in the composer's catalog. It is the first of three wind quintets written by Stockhausen, followed by Adieu für Wolfgang Sebastian Meyer (1966) and the Rotary Wind Quintet (1997), but is scored with cor anglais instead of the usual French horn of the standard quintet. Its title refers to the different ways that musical time is treated in the composition.

Formel (Formula) is a composition for chamber orchestra by Karlheinz Stockhausen, written while he was still a student in 1951. It is given the number ​16 in his catalog of works, indicating that it is amongst the pieces preceding the composition he recognised as his first mature work, Nr. 1 Kontra-Punkte.

<i>Stop</i> (Stockhausen)

Stop is a composition for orchestra by Karlheinz Stockhausen, work-number 18 in the composer’s catalogue of works, where two performing realisations are also found as Nr. 18½ and Nr. 18⅔.

Unsichtbare Chöre is an eight-channel electronic-music composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen. A component part of the opera Donnerstag aus Licht, it may also be performed as an independent composition, in which form it is designated "ex 49" in the composer's catalog of works.


Sternklang, is "park music for five groups" composed in 1971 by Karlheinz Stockhausen, and bears the work number 34 in his catalogue of compositions. The score is dedicated to Mary Bauermeister, and a performance of the work lasts from two-and-a-half to three hours.

Drei Lieder, for alto voice and chamber orchestra, is a song cycle by Karlheinz Stockhausen, written while he was still a conservatory student in 1950. In the composer's catalogue of works, it bears the number 1/10.


  1. Kurtz 1992, p. 201.
  2. Varga 2013, p. 60.
  3. Stockhausen 1978b, p. 290.
  4. Stockhausen 1978a, p. 291.
  5. Stockhausen 1978a, p. 294–296.
  6. Maconie 2005, 374.
  7. González 2007.
  8. Stockhausen 1978b.

Cited sources

Further reading