Dritter Spaziergang, gekürzt
[Yes, the Walt contagion is spreading and, as an experiment, I offer another Rihm stroll, now in very abbreviated tones, though maybe not legally quite brief enough. Is anyone word-counting? I hope not, for my sake. For Derek Aubry, with best wishes for his peregrination to more temperate climes. D.A.]
Verwandlung 1 (2002) — 18 minutes
Reduced winds and brass. Minimal beginning. Nice pacing. Pettersson-esque strings against strident trombones. Ebb, then swelling motif on snare drum, then ebb, then bigger swell with low piano, timpani and bass drum. Cyclical. Minimal ending.
Das Gehege (2004-05) — 33 or 34 minutes
Music theatre that defies its title. A night scene, yet not a score that broods. Botho Strauss text. Sunny beyond belief instead! After all, many other Rihm works already explore tenebræ. Normal orchestra. Moderate coloratura soprano. Ja, Gabriele Schnaut, very versatile with highs and lows. I have no idea about the rôle of the silent eagle or the scenery by William Friedkin. Piano ostinato reminiscent of boogie-woogie at times. Impressionistic harp, bells and pizzicato strings recur. Occasional harp glissandi forgiven. Episodic, like Schreker or Zemlinsky.
Eine Stimme 1-3 (2004-05) — decreasing durations, 11 to 8 to 5
No text. Modest forces. Material tightly argued. A few unsure moments in 1. A minute of unaccompanied mezzo-soprano in 3. Crotales, struck and bowed, set off 2 well, an omen of more metal to come. Somehow not histrionic. Language aside, could Improvisations de Boulez be too far away?
Verwandlung 2 (2005) — 16 minutes
String opening with clarinet and harp. Almost pastoral. Already a surprise. Some filigree drum and harp passages, otherwise Scandinavian in inclination. Motoric motifs à la Pacific 231. Propulsive, yes, but less rounded than 1. Chailly controversy for his inaugural concert. No idea why. Hardline Leipzigers, I guess.
Quid est Deus (2007) — 36 minutes
Subtitled “hermetic cantata.” Very hermetic indeed. Latin text, but not used to send a message. Solemn opening. Large chorus. Quartets of flutes, oboes and bassoons or their relatives. Trios of trumpets and trombones. Harp! Piano and two percussionists. Viola octet, cello sextet, quartet of double basses. A work that never moves far beyond “dour” in its expressive range, a few transcendent moments of orchestration aside. Texture is reduced to piano and voices alone for a brief while. The choral writing seems surprisingly lifeless. A few passages of bouncy, sprightly winds sound out of place. Solo moments for Rihm’s beloved bass drum. Some turbulence on the path, but a reflective close. An arc.
[Verwandlung 2 closes a Mendelssohn DVD on EuroArts from Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, and Quid est Deus opens a new Hänssler Classic disc out October 19. W.M.]