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Rihm: Musik für Oboe, Styx und Lethe / Zender, Gielen, Ott

Release Date: 04/10/2007 
Label:  Swr Music   Catalog #: 93185   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Wolfgang Rihm
Performer:  Gottfried SchneiderAlexander OttLucas FelsWalter Grimmer,   ... 
Conductor:  Michael GielenHans ZenderJan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RIHM Music for Oboe and Orchestra. 1 Styx und Lethe. 2 Dritte Musik. 3 Erster Doppelgesang 4 Alexander Ott (ob); 1 Lucas Fels (vc); 2 Gottfried Schneider (vn); 3 Hirofumi Fukai (va); 4 Read more class="ARIAL12"> Walter Grimmer (vc); 4 Hans Zender,cond; 1,2 Michael Gielen, cond; 3 Jan Latham-Koenig, cond; 4 Southwest German RSO Baden-Baden HÄNSSLER 93.185 (72:09)

This is the first volume in Hänssler’s edition of the orchestral music of contemporary German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). Promised future issues include a symphony, works for solo voice and orchestra, and choral music. The discs are scheduled to appear as far ahead as 2010. This is good news indeed, for Rihm is a fascinating and individual voice: his synthesis of avant-garde playing techniques, post-expressionist harmony, fragmentary formal deconstruction and sheer orchestral color, plus in his more recent work a kind of tough lyricism reminiscent of Henze, all coalesce to produce a highly individual style. The notes quote him as believing that “music must be full of emotion; the emotion full of complexity.” It is the latter element which makes Rihm’s music challenging for the listener, but a firm emotional undercurrent serves to keep the journey compelling.

The works on this CD are all concertante pieces. Rihm’s randomly shifting orchestral textures battle it out with oboe, cello (in Styx und Lethe ), and violin (in Dritte Musik ), while Erster Doppelgesang is effectively a double concerto for viola and cello. All but the last work date from the 1990s: a prolific period for the composer, whose opus numbers, if he employed them, would pass the 400 mark.

Because of the episodic nature of these pieces, it would be time consuming and probably pointless to describe them in detail; nevertheless, there are clear summits in each case. The 1995 Music for Oboe and Orchestra begins with a monodie for the oboe (added in 2002, when Rihm revised the work for the present soloist). Once the orchestra enters, much of the color results from Rihm’s pitting of the oboe’s highest register against high string chords. (Ott is remarkable here, maintaining tone color throughout the instrument’s extremes.) Around the 14-minute mark, the oom-pah music of the fairground bursts in, to Ivesian effect, underpinning the oboe’s twittering staccato phrases and leading to a free-for-all conclusion, followed by a moment’s silence and then a single final chord: dismissive and off-hand.

Unsettled cello figuration and stabbing, trombone-laden punctuations introduce Styx und Lethe , named after the two mythological rivers of the underworld. The notes don’t elaborate on the significance of the title (and Rihm himself refuses to do so); nevertheless, you could surmise that the piece opens in a (death-throes?) struggle, which eventually settles into surging rhythmic figuration, and before long we are presumably confronted by the Gates of Hades. (Rihm even mixes a gong stroke into the texture at this point.) There is a strong sense of tone-painting throughout the work. Piano is an important presence, notably the deep bass register, aptly enough. A long central passage of repeated notes for the cello—an almost frantic momentum that struggles to go nowhere—is finally halted by implacable, monumental trombones; but Rihm swiftly goes on to deconstruct the scene he has established, and the frenzied orchestra joins in a barely controlled reprise of the soloist’s fast music. The work ends with the cello’s high harmonics, rising above the orchestra’s snarling depths.

Bongos and congas, amongst other percussion, provide a pulsating accompaniment to the violin at the top of Dritte Musik . As in all these works, there are passages here of jazz-inflected rhythm: something Rihm has added to his armory since the spare, meandering Time Chant for violin and orchestra, recorded by Anne-Sophie Mutter 15 years ago. Then, at the conclusion of Erster Doppelgesang , an extraordinary passage even calls to mind Carl Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony: the viola’s plaintive lyrical line is silenced by an aggressive snare drum, or possibly two, which continue attacking until the soloist has faded away: the ultimate expression of Rihm’s “individual against a hostile world” view of concerto form.

These are only some of the memorable episodes in the journeys undergone in these four works: there are many others. Performance standard and recording quality are top notch. The Southwest German Radio Orchestra of Baden-Baden has had a long association with unfamiliar contemporary music, and these conductors are respected specialists in that area. All five soloists are assured and expressive, particularly oboist Alexander Ott and cellist Lucas Fels. All in all, a fine disc and an exciting first salvo in what promises to be a significant series.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Dritte Musik by Wolfgang Rihm
Performer:  Gottfried Schneider (Violin)
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/06/1993 
Venue:  Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, German 
Length: 17 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Music for Oboe and Orchestra by Wolfgang Rihm
Performer:  Alexander Ott (Oboe)
Conductor:  Hans Zender
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/06/1993 
Venue:  Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, German 
Length: 16 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Germany (1995 - 2002). 
Styx und Lethe by Wolfgang Rihm
Performer:  Lucas Fels (Cello)
Conductor:  Hans Zender
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/06/1993 
Venue:  Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, German 
Length: 23 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Germany (1997 - 1998). 
Doppelgesang no 1 by Wolfgang Rihm
Performer:  Walter Grimmer (Cello), Hirofumi Fukai (Viola)
Conductor:  Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/06/1993 
Venue:  Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden, German 
Length: 14 Minutes 4 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Music for Oboe and Orchestra
Styx and Lethe
Dritte Musik fur Violine und Orchester: Dritte Musik
Erster Doppelgesang

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