Wolfgang Rihm is big in German music (and still alive, only 67) but is not well known over here, despite having written 400 works.
This is modern music, but not terribly difficult to listen to. You do have to listen; it’s not really music to have on in the background. Based on these three works, Herr Rihm seems to like the violin playing high, the orchestra lower and occasionally making a lot of clatter. In places he almost seems to let the audience take a breather, with moments of easier — almost folk — melody, where it all relaxes and could almost be called fun.
The CD opens with Gesungene Zeit (“Time chant”), which kicks off with the violin playing at the high end, ethereal and slightly mournful. The violin plays continually throughout the piece (27m), the orchestra providing texture, including (as the sleeve notes put it) “interjections from the percussion”, although these interjections are cymbal-free and the orchestra provides an element of tension rather than disharmony.
Lichtes Spiel (“light play” or “child’s play”) was subtitled A Summer Piece and Rihm intended “something light, but not lightweight,” say the sleeve notes. It is more conventional than the opening piece, if not playful in places. The opening section continues where the first leaves off before the mood lightens and it almost becomes pastoral. The third piece Coll’arco (“With the bow”) clocks in at 30 minutes and is somewhere between the two, the violin again at the high end and the orchestra providing texture, neither as minimalist as the opener or as user-friendly as the second piece.
This is a programme that needs some effort, but it is rewarding and atmospheric; it might be a little modern for some.
This is out on Naxos, 8.573667.
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