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Rolf Riehm: Die Tranen Des Gletschers; Nuages Immortels; Berceuse

Riehm / Zender / Gielen / Wahren / Swr Bb
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Telos   Catalog #: 128   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Rolf Riehm
Conductor:  Hans ZenderMichael GielenCarmen Maria CarneciTobias Wahren
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RIEHM Die Tränen des Gletschers. 1 Nuages Immortels oder Focusing on Solos (Medea in Avignon 1 ). Berceuse 2 1 Hans Zender, 2 Michael Gielen, Carmen-Maria Cârneci, Tobias Wahren, cond; SWR SO Baden-Baden und Freibrug TELOS 128 (62:42) Read more

So how have I not heard before of Rolf Riehm (b.1937)? These three orchestral works are the product of a strong artist who truly knows his own mind.

The music is what I’d call “knowing primitivsm.” It can be barren or excessive, but it is always direct, indeed, in-your-face. At times unforeseen, even shocking things occur (like a sudden fury of whip-snapping, and other percussive noises, even some which might be thought rude). There’s a sense of the absurd, of life yanking one from extreme to extreme without mercy. There’s righteous anger and at the same time a deep guffaw of black humor.

Die Tränen des Gletschers (1998) translates as “The Tears of Glaciers.” It’s almost exclusively two-part counterpoint between orchestral megalines, lumbering and butting up against one another. Nuages Immortels oder Focusing on Solos (Medea in Avignon) (2001) may win a prize for most elaborate and confounding title. It’s 20-plus minutes of stark motives and dark chorales, and projects a more romantic sensibility, though never with anything sweet or sentimental. Berceuse (1984–85), despite a derivation from Chopin’s eponymous piece, is anything but. It’s a postmodern carnival, a parade of grotesques that requires three conductors, and makes me think of the decadent 1920s scenes painted by Beckmann and Grosz.

Based only on this selection, it would not surprise me if Riehm is considered an outsider within the German new-music scene. He has an interest in noise similar to Helmut Lachenmann, but it seems less theoretical and abstract, more Expressionist and symbolic. The music can be even a little embarrassing in its directness and deliberate vulgarity. It seems to represent a very idiosyncratic mythology/cosmology.

Another composer I am reminded of is Giya Kancheli, though Riehm’s music has none of his rarefied nostalgia or hyper-tenderness. But the sense of a raw, deeply personal worldview that causes great ruptures and contrasts to occur is a similarity between the two. Some of the bloom is off my feelings for Kancheli, after initial enthusiasm, and it might also turn out to be the case here. Time will tell; for the moment, though, I am exhilarated by the sheer gall of this music. To mention another painter, it’s a bit like your first encounter with Dubuffet.

Great performances. I feel the music I’m hearing is what the composer has heard in his head.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Die Tränen des Gletschers, for orchestra & sampler by Rolf Riehm
Conductor:  Hans Zender
Period: Modern 
Written: 1998 
Date of Recording: 10/13/1998 
Venue:  Baden-Baden, Hans-Rosbaud-Studio 
Length: 20 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Nuages immortels oder Focusing On Solos (Medea in Avignon), for orchestra by Rolf Riehm
Conductor:  Hans Zender
Period: Modern 
Written: 2001 
Date of Recording: 03/27/2007 
Venue:  Konzerthaus Freiburg 
Length: 22 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Berceuse, for orchestra by Rolf Riehm
Conductor:  Michael Gielen,  Carmen Maria Carneci,  Tobias Wahren
Period: Modern 
Written: 1985 
Date of Recording: 10/14/1989 
Venue:  Baden-Baden, Hans-Rosbaud-Studio 
Length: 19 Minutes 38 Secs. 

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