Inspired by Antonin Artaud's poem Tutuguri--Le Rite du soleil noir (The Black Sun Rite), Wolfgang Rihm's colossal "poème dansé" receives its world premiere in this recording. Its staged version calls for orchestra (with no fewer than six percussionists!), chorus, and live dancers, but even on a recording we have a real sense of the work's giant scope. It's a massive, unruly, and unrestrained beast. Although based on a poem, Tutuguri is not exactly programmatic or episodic. Rather, Rihm's writing evokes the fragmentary feeling of a nightmare, as when certain muscular, vivid images leap out of your memory once you awake, but the overall narrative is lost. That mood holds here: flutes nervously stuttering; strings skittering along; the ominous, pulsating rhythms mimicking running in fright; bloodcurdling cries from the chorus. But the background upon which all this takes place is a silent void. It's only in the last movement that these splintered experiences are stitched together in a primal, ritualistic drum session in which the rhythmic pounding harnesses and transforms all that wild energy.
Aside from the innate theatricality of the piece, Tutuguri is a tour de force for the musicians, especially the percussionists--and it's a challenge that the SWR handles beautifully under the commanding baton of Fabrice Bollon. (The chorus is minimally present; this is really the instrumentalists' show.) The sound is gorgeous too--the cracking thunder (or is it gunfire?) of the drums in the fourth movement is terrifyingly vivid. While this is not the most relaxing or reassuring piece in the world, Rihm brilliantly realizes his vision, and the recording is definitely a winner. [4/12/2003]
--Anastasia Tsioulcas, ClassicsToday.com