mauricio kagel’s two-man orchestra (zwei-mann orcheste), performed by wilhelm bruck and matthias würsch


Wilhelm Bruck Performing Mauricio Kagel’s Two-Man Orchestra (1971-73)

Many months ago, while hurtling at terrifying speeds through the mountain passes which lay between Mexico City and Oaxaca, my friend Alexander Bruck turned and casually mentioned that his father was helping arrange a series of performances of Mauricio Kagel’s seminal work Two-Man Orchestra (Zwei-Mann Orcheste) in Mexico. Alex is a classically trained violist. Over the years, his talent and remarkable creative voice have placed him at the heart of Mexico City’s avant-garde music scene – performing constantly on his own, and in an endless stream of collaborations – both as an improvisor and an interpreter of scored works. He also co-founded Ensemble Liminar, which, as a result of strong critical reception, has increasingly drawn him into the international eye.



Alexander Bruck Performing James Tenney’s Koan, For Malcolm Goldstein, Oaxaca (2016)

Despite having know him for the better part of year, during which we formed a firm friendship, I hadn’t realized that Alex was the son of Wilhelm Bruck – one of the most noted guitarist in field of 20th century Classical Music. In addition his own singular voice, he was part of a noted legacy dedicated to these sounds.

Wilhelm Bruck’s career is long, marked by a daunting number of performances and recordings, interpreting a range of composers (particularity Helmut Lachenmann), but he’s probably most recognized for his work with Mauricio Kagel. He collaborated extensively with the composer across his most active period during the 1960’s and 70’s. Bruck appears on the bulk of Kagel’s discography from that era, and in a number of his remarkable films (I wrote about them back in October, you can check them out there).

Kagel might be described as the Samuel Beckett of 20th century Classical Music – placing him inevitably close to my heart. He was quick to see the potential of new technology – particularity film and television, exploiting metaphor, absurd ritual, sounds of the every day, while splicing humor with dark realism. He produced an astounding body of work with no equivalent. My affection for the composer is such, that it is impossible to pick a favorite work, but among them is Two-Man Orchestra, completed in 1973. If memory serves, he composed the work with Wilhelm Bruck in mind, and I don’t believe it’s ever been performed without him.

Below are two excerpted performance of the work. The first took place at the Museum Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland during of 2011, while the second occurred at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina during 2012. Both feature Bruck and the percussionist Matthias Würsch. The full work extends to roughly an hour, but even in the brief windows we’re allowed, they quickly unfold to display everything that made Kagel such an astounding composer. When was the last time you heard the audience laugh at the outset of a Classical Music concert? The work speaks for itself, so I’ll let it do just that. I hope you enjoy.

-Bradford Bailey


Mauricio Kagel’s Two-Man Orchestra, Performed by Wilhelm Bruck and Matthias Würsch at Museum Tinguely – Basel, Switzerland (2011)


Mauricio Kagel’s Two-Man Orchestra, Performed by Wilhelm Bruck and Matthias Würsch at Teatro Colón – Buenos Aires, Argentina  (2012)




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