Rihm, Wolfgang (1952-)
In his fifties, German born Wolfgang Rihm is one of the better known living composers internationally and could well be one of the most prolific of our time, with a catalogue numbering some 218 works for all genres, including piano music, opera, symphonic repertoire, not to mention 12 string quartets so far. Rihm studied with Stockhausen in 1972-73 and with Klaus Huber in 1973-76, after which he quickly moved away from serialism and Darmstadt aesthetics. Soon thereafter, he would create a very personal style, both innovative and accessible. In his own words, music must first and foremost express passion : "I aim to move and to be passionate. All that is music is emotion"
. How refreshing, after enduring the abstruse and arcane chatter of so many contemporary composers ! His music is also very characteristic, spontaneous and changing, all in striking contrasts, with bouts of stormy weather suddenly turning into stifling tranquillity - a peculiar and almost manic-depressive vision of the world.
String Quartet n° 4 (1979-1981)
I. Agitato, allegro - alla marcia, allegro ma non troppo
II. Con moto, allegro - andante - allegro molto
The Quartet No.4 by Rihm was written in 1979-81 for the Alban Berg Quartet. In three movements, the work begins with a long passage played in unison by the four instruments. This first movement consists of a practically uninterrupted state of frenzy that is carried through with highly complex and asymmetrical durations. A march written in dotted rhythms brings a sense of rhythmic stability to the movement itself. Its contrasts in dynamics are extreme and almost always sudden. A very slow and peaceful section concludes this first movement. The second movement comprises three sections. The first, marked senza vibrato at the beginning, is fractured by harsh and devastating ff that gradually turn into a tremolo of almost unbearable intensity in the extreme high registers of the two violins. Follows a brief Andante section, calm and lyrical. The forte accents return, ever stronger, and both the crescendos and the accelerandos bring about the third and sharply rhythmic section, marked Feroce, which concludes the movement in a most abrupt manner. The third movement, Adagio, presents a startling contrast with the rest of the work. Its nearly motionless ppp in harmonic sounds convey a mysterious and reflective quality to the piece, with the single burst of a short and violent rhythmic section.
This work by Rihm might prove to be unsettling because of its utterly personal language and stunning clashes in terms of styles and aesthetics. The striking use of traditional elements set against more modern writing techniques creates a riveting and highly imaginative journey in music.
Jean Portugais and Olga Ranzenhofer
Grave In Memoria Thomas Kakuska (2005)