- Symphony No. 1, Op. 3
- Symphony No. 2
- Nachtwach, for 8 voices, chorus, 4 trombones & woodblock
- Vers une Symphonie fleuve III, for orchestra
- Raumauge, for chorus & 5 percussionists
Hänssler Classics is committed to recording all the works of Wolfgang Rihm, one of the most prolific and intriguing German composers to emerge in the late twentieth century, and this CD is the third installment in the Rihm Edition. The composer shows remarkable assurance in his first symphony, written in 1969, when he was 17. It's a serial piece, and its roiling turbulence and unpredictable juxtapositions make it very much a product of the defiant modernism that dominated music in postwar Europe. The symphony is emotionally and dramatically charged, a potent expression of the composer's credo, which he was to articulate five years later: "Music must be full of emotion, the emotion full of complexity." The second symphony, composed in 1974, is more aesthetically daring, an example of Rihm's willingness to go to expressive extremes. It begins with a single pitch that grows in timbral complexity for over a minute and is followed by a silence lasting 35 seconds. Gestures of that boldness, regardless of whatever other responses they elicit, are guaranteed to rivet and focus an audience's attention, and when the orchestra finally reenters in an expressionistic, densely contrapuntal haze, listeners can't help hearing it with a heightened alertness. In the later works recorded here, written between 1987 and 1995, Rihm has matured; the youthful angst has been replaced by a more controlled and sophisticated handling of his material. "Vers une symphonie fleuve III, for orchestra" (1992-1995), is a particularly attractive and poetically eloquent piece. Two large choral works use a full range of extended vocal techniques, always to meaningful expressive ends. The performances by Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR and SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, under a variety of conductors, are consistently superlative, deeply committed, and technically polished. The CD should appeal to listeners with an interest in new developments in unapologetic modernism.