Rihm in imitation of Nono, and Rihm as pure, original Rihm
Christopher Culver | 08/20/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This Collegno disc contains two pieces by the German composer Wolfgang Rihm. The first is performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gerd Albrecht, while the second features the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with pianist Siegfried Mauser and conductor Alexander Lazarew. Rihm is not only a highly original composer among the post-modernists, but he is also highly eclectic from work to work.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Rihm wrote several works which seemed to take inspiration from the late music of Luigi Nono. "Ins Offene" (1990-92) shows the same interest in spatial separation of instruments and music that is built up from brief fragments played at low dynamic and separated by weighty silences. Unlike the Italian modernist however, Rihm works fairly traditional harmony, with none of Nono's love of piercing quarter tones. Still, Rihm's original style mostly seems to disappear under the Nonoisms, and while I wouldn't mind hearing the piece in a concert programme, it does seem pretty minor among Rihm's whole output.
"Sphere" for piano and orchestra (1992-94) is one of the more original takes on the concerto genre. Instead of a dialogue between ensemble and soloist, Rihm uses the orchestra as an echo chamber for the piano. The soloist plays a few notes or a chord, and the other instruments seem to resonate to those vibrations in their own particular ways. The more active the piano is, the more the orchestra buzzes. The exploitation of space is similar to "Ins Offene", but the flow of the piece is typical Rihm. This is a strong piece, and it really grabs you if you surrender to its gradual development. I hope to see it live on day.
The CD comes in a jewel case, but the booklet is too thick to be held within it as well, so both jewel case and booklet are enclosed in a cardboard slipcover. Anton Sergl's liner notes are unusually detailed, and we also find reproductions of some of Rihm's sketches and newspaper clippings from the Czech and Canary Islands premieres of these works.
While "Sphere" is a good piece, this disc may not be the best introduction to Rihm's work. For that I'd recommend the Deutsche Grammophon disc Jagden und Formen or the first installment of Hanssler's RIHM-EDITION. But if you are a Rihm fan, pick this one up and enjoy."