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OF THE MONTH
Ritchie Symphony 4
OF THE MONTH
RIHM (b. 1952)
1. Symphony No.1 Op.3 (1969) [10:16]
2. Symphony No.2 (1975) [14:17]
3. Nachtwach (1987/8) [10:10]
4. Vers une symphonie fleuve III (1992/5)
5. Raumauge (1994) [05:01]
Stuttgart (3,5); Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des
Jonathan Stockhammer (1,2), Markus Creed (3),
Gianluigi Gelmetti (4), Rupert Huber (5)
rec. Stadtshalle, Sindelfingen, 5-8 November 2007 (1,2);
Villa Berg, Stuttgart, 14-15 September 2004 (3);
Liederhalle, Stuttgart, 25 October 1995 (4) and Theaterhaus,
Stuttgart, 20 January 1994 (5)
CD 93.227 [65:11]
is the third volume of a continuing series devoted to Rihm’s
music. Hänssler have already released four volumes of his
music including the large-scale ballet Tutuguri -
reviewed here some time ago. Given Rihm’s incredibly prolific
output, a Rihm Edition is an almost impossible task. His
output is uneven in quality as is that of many other prolific
composers. However a good deal of it deserves to be preserved
in recordings. This volume includes works from each end
of his compositional career. The first two symphonies date
from 1969 and 1975 respectively and the most recent work
here Vers une symphonie fleuve III is from
of Rihm’s earliest works, his Symphony No.1 Op.3, is inscribed “In
memoriam Karl Amadeus Hartmann”. The music of its two movements
- a short, explosive Appassionato and a longer, turbulent,
often expressionist Adagio - clearly brings Hartmann’s
music to mind. This kinship continues to this day. To label
a piece of music a symphony and to allocate it an opus
number was a rather provocative decision on the young composer’s
part at a time when the very notion of symphony was anathema
to a certain musical establishment. However, the most remarkable
feature of this technically assured work is that the music
already displays most of Rihm’s fingerprints. These include
a violent, often aggressive Expressionism, a liking for
dynamic extremes and for massive brass - and percussion-led
scoring. Rihm’s First Symphony is no mean achievement for
a seventeen years old composer.
Symphony No.2 of 1975, ironically subtitled “Erster and
letzter Satz” (“First and last movements”), opens with
a skeletal introduction - a simple slow crescendo in the
lower strings. This gives way to a more developed section
not unlike the Adagio of the First Symphony leading
straight into a caricature of a funeral march ending with
a brief restatement of the opening.
these examples from Rihm’s huge orchestral output, this
release also includes two choral works, albeit ones with
accompaniment. I do not know whether or not Nachtwach (“Night
Watch”) for eight vocal soloists, mixed chorus and four
trombones relates to Rembrandt’s celebrated canvas. It
may however be experienced as a processional moving at
a moderate pace, albeit disrupted and punctuated by sharper
accents. As with several other works by Rihm, its layout
calls for spatial effects achieved by placing the vocal
soloists and the trombones in front of the audience and
the chorus behind it. Unlike Nachtwach which is
for wordless chorus, Raumauge for chorus and percussion
is a short setting of Peter Handke’s translation of the
final monologue from Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound.
Here Rihm relies on a number of ‘modern’ vocal techniques.
most substantial work is Vers une symphonie fleuve III.
This is the third part of a huge orchestral project Vers
une symphonie fleuve - there are now five of them.
To a certain extent, it may be considered its slow movement.
It begins a bit tentatively from the depths of the orchestra.
Textures open up slowly and progressively. Various contrasting
fragments collide without any apparent concern for continuity,
whereas the lower strings vainly attempt providing coherence.
Ambiguity prevails until the final stage of the work when
an almost Brucknerian chorale emerges from the orchestral
turmoil. The music of the final bars simply thins out into
recordings - presumably drawn from the SWR’s archives -
are excellent and the sound quality is often quite stunning.
Rihm’s fans will certainly need no further recommendation.
This release coupling early and later works of contrasted
character may be safely recommended to those who may know
Rihm’s name but little, if any, of his music.
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