BEYOND THE STAGE with “German Masterworks” and “Tierkreis”

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The NYU Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jens Georg Bachmann, performs German Masterworks on Sunday, March 29th featuring three iconic German composers: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Hans Werner Henze, and Richard Wagner.

In this post, we dive into Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Tierkreis (1975), which is Stockhausen’s most popular composition, consisting of twelve melodies, each representing an astrological sign. Its title translates literally to “Zodiac.” The performance begins with the movement that corresponds to the zodiac sign of the day on which the performance falls and proceeds through the twelve melodies of the cycle, ending with a return to the starting melody.

Composer’s Website: Karlheinz Stockhausen

Audio: Stockhausen’s Tierkreis (1975) “Zodiac” melodies


The Tierkreis melodies express the zodiacal characters, as conceived by the composer. In that way, serialism and astrology join forces, which is a surprising alliance. Below are the English words that Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote to the Tierkreis melodies on the twelve star signs, to be sung in English, German, or Italian.


Aquarius ♒ January 21-February 19
Bearer of water, Aquarius
airy spirit
bright sharp and clear
reaching for the distant, delving
lightning-fast changing
unites in peaceful brotherhood

Pisces ♓ February 20-March 20
Pisces – two fishes in movement
planets Jupiter Neptune
water softly clinging
formless forward backward undecided dissolving
devoted gentle and kind
sudden willfulness
intuition dreams
wisdom innocence

Aries ♈ March 21-April21
A – ari ari Aries
fire fiery Mars
sunrise morning-red eastern
springtime bursting bud
fast impulsive and alert and loves the risk

Taurus ♉ April 21-May 21
Taurus bull
earthy heavy feminine
through Venus forming
unconscious sensual
property holding
and patient love

Gemini ♊ May 21- June 21
Gemini twins
airy agile
as Mercury in the changing play
accelerates and simplifies
loves common sense, the flow of talk
all that’s fast, the stroke of genius, joke
the leap – the new
as messenger

Cancer ♋ June 22-July 23
woman and wife
southern glowing sun
springbrook flowing stream
sea and ebb and flow
summer blossom
innerly tender

Leo ♌ July 23-August 22
Leo Lion
fiery sun spirit
king of hearts
ruling the world
noble and proud and steadfast
generously giving
loves the play
loves the Arts
the love
the high

Virgo ♍ August 23-September 23
Virgo virgin
Mercury clear
late summer mellow
sensible cautious and aloof
conscientious, serving, modest

Libra ♎ September 23-October 22
Libra balance
air winds Venus
friend beloved lover
west evening autumn ripened fruit
lovely harmonious peaceful
dancing swaying in love

Scorpio ♏ October 23-November 21
water in storm
Mars Pluto
fighter strong
destroying frightening force
infinitely deep
burns bites stings hunts
seeks to find the core of life
conquest of self
as victor

Sagittarius ♐ November 22-December 21
Archer arrow Sagittarius
fiery as Jupiter’s mounted knight
half horse half man
loves nature
optimistic outlook
free and open
true spiritual
sees the beyond
reaching past the gate of death
cheerfully trusting

Capricorn ♑ December 21-January 20
Capricornus sea goat with Saturn
Earth son of earth the man
night I winter night
show the heaven’s firmament
starry tent
seed, withdrawn
slow tenacious
steadily climbing heights
stubborn stiff
striving for light
son of mother Sun Sirius

Kurtz, M. “Stockhausen-Eine Biographie”, Bärenreiter Kassel/Basel 1988, footnote 202
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