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5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Disc: 1
1. Morphonie - Wolfgang Hock/Karl Steeb/Enrique Santiago/Anton Kasmeier
2. Klangbeschreibung I
Disc: 2
1. Klangbeschreibung II - Ingrid Ade-Jesemann/Monika Bair-Jvenz/Christa Muckenheim/Christine Whittlesey
2. Klangbeschreibung III

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5.0 out of 5 stars A landmark composition July 7 2001
Format:Audio CD
"Klangbeschreibung" (Sound description), 1987, is a composition of massive scale, and it is dark and heavy of character. Klangbeschreibung I (K I) lasts 20 min. (for three orchestral groups), K II lasts close to 30 min. (for 4 female voices, 5 brass players and 6 percussionists) and K III lasts close to 40 min. (for large orchestra). A total of close to 90 min. of music, this giant of a composition lasts pretty much as long as the longest Mahler symphony!
"Klangbeschreibung" is just phenomenal. Although I like pretty much everything I've heard so far by this composer, with this work for certain Rihm clearly establishes himself to me as a worthy successor to the great post-war generation of composers (Boulez, Stockhausen, Carter, Xenakis, Birtwistle, Ligeti - when he's up to form, Lutoslawski and others). A torch-bearer for the future. This composition has everything I expect from the hands of a truly great composer: unique and personal language, utmost authority, wonderful imagination, inevitability of musical argument, consummate handling of musical tension, etc. What's more, in the years I have delved into the rich, truly exciting realms of great atonal music, not often have I been excited and adrenaline-rushed that much by a musical composition (except by the best Stockhausen and a few others), and have I been left with such a crushing, weighty impression of it! This seems to me a giant under all compositions, not only post-war but any period of Western art music. A landmark in music, and I would say in my view one of the stand-out compositions of the entire 20th century. Wow, did I say that? Apparently I did.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A landmark composition July 7 2001
By Albrecht Moritz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
"Klangbeschreibung" (Sound description), 1987, is a composition of massive scale, and it is dark and heavy of character. Klangbeschreibung I (K I) lasts 20 min. (for three orchestral groups), K II lasts close to 30 min. (for 4 female voices, 5 brass players and 6 percussionists) and K III lasts close to 40 min. (for large orchestra). A total of close to 90 min. of music, this giant of a composition lasts pretty much as long as the longest Mahler symphony!
"Klangbeschreibung" is just phenomenal. Although I like pretty much everything I've heard so far by this composer, with this work for certain Rihm clearly establishes himself to me as a worthy successor to the great post-war generation of composers (Boulez, Stockhausen, Carter, Xenakis, Birtwistle, Ligeti - when he's up to form, Lutoslawski and others). A torch-bearer for the future. This composition has everything I expect from the hands of a truly great composer: unique and personal language, utmost authority, wonderful imagination, inevitability of musical argument, consummate handling of musical tension, etc. What's more, in the years I have delved into the rich, truly exciting realms of great atonal music, not often have I been excited and adrenaline-rushed that much by a musical composition (except by the best Stockhausen and a few others), and have I been left with such a crushing, weighty impression of it! This seems to me a giant under all compositions, not only post-war but any period of Western art music. A landmark in music, and I would say in my view one of the stand-out compositions of the entire 20th century. Wow, did I say that? Apparently I did.
As the CD booklet says, the composition is rather one of single words, phrases, than one of whole sentences (to use the analogy with language), but somehow it all fits to give magical conherence. If atonal music is compared to abstract painting, this must be among the most 'abstract paintings' of them all. Often not even gestures of figures are heard, like in Carter or Boulez, but frequently "Klangbeschreibung" is mere sounds. K I dwells in dark colors, draws for that heavily on low-registered woodwinds, and sets the tone for the weight of the entire composition, which draws on silence or almost-silence between sounds to a large extent in creating tension. In K I, slowly moving as the other two sections, a wonderful shifting of orchestral colors is heard alongside shifting in harmony and concomitant changes in dynamic expression. K I seems the most fluid of all three sections.
K II contrasts wonderfully gentle treatment of voices, which hardly ever attack, with attacklike, stepped dynamics of crystalline, long-drawn brass chords. The female voices of course rise to vehement expression as well, but this is achieved by swelling of voices rather than by sharp outbreaks. If you know what Rihm does with the female voices in "Eroberung von Mexico" then expect similar textures in K II. However, here four female voices appear, making the textural possibilities even richer. The percussion instruments carefully set accents. At some points where bass-heavy percussion briefly sounds, the contrast to the female voices can be very captivating. The text comes from a poem by Nietsche and is not the most cheerful you can imagine.
K III: This is a true monster which creeps along for almost 40 minutes. Here dynamic contrasts become even more violent - or more frequently violent - than in K I. Single chords pound through the musical landscape with full weight and power, but quiet passages with mighty tension are heard for a large part of those 40 min. as well. Quiet passages and forceful outbreaks follow each other relatively rapidly, with only few passages exclusively dominated by either one. In fact, K III seems a succession of brutal sound attacks, always prepared in tension by the somewhat softer moments in between. This thing of the proportions of an entire mid-sized symphony, keeping tension flawlessly throughout its duration, is indeed a monster to me. You'll have to hear for yourself to see if you agree.
As I said, in my assessment so far one of the most weighty compositions of the entire 20th century.
(As you may have noticed from this review I write enthusiastically; however, I seldom throw around with superlatives as I do here - and here I think I have a reason).
GO and GET IT!
"Morphonie" for large orchestra with string quartet (1972, 40 min. duration) is the first large-scale work with which the young Rihm introduced himself to a broader audience at its premiere in Donaueschingen. Wild sound eruptions alternate with quiet, static passages of often tender soul-exposing character (string quartet!). Very exciting.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two powerful works from 1972 and 1987 April 18 2012
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This two-disc set includes "Morphonie" for orchestra with solo string quartet (1972 -- 40'10) and "Klangbeschreibung I-III" (1987 -- 87'10). Both were premiered by the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg at the Donaueschinger Musiktage: "Morphonie" in 1974 and "Klangbeschreibung" in 1987. These recordings were made in the studio, based on the same intensive rehearsals. "Morphonie" is led by Ernest Bour, while "Klangbeschreibung" is led by Michael Gielen.

It was with the premiere of "Morphonie" that the 22-year old Wolfgang Rihm made his public debut. "Morphonie" made a huge impact as it challenged the then-prevailing post-serialist idiom with its bold energy and use of Romantic gestures, including the moving tonal concluding passage from the strings, evoking Mahler and Berg. Following a crescendo punctuated by piano and percussion, a string quartet section begins shortly after the 20-minute mark and continues, periodically accompanied and interrupted by piano, for nine minutes. Clearly Rihm had absorbed the Second Vienna School as well as the main line of the Austro-German tradition, and proved capable of using putting this heritage at the service of a powerful vision and fresh language. He was to follow "Morphonie" with several more works in a similar vein through the 1970s (for instance Dis-Kontur/Lichtzwang/Sub-Kontur -- see my review).

Rihm elaborated on his initial breakthroughs in the decade of the 1980s, with major works including the "dance poem" Tutuguri based on an Artaud text, and the opera Die Hamletmaschine, based on the Heiner Muller drama (see my reviews of both). With this preparation in writing for dramatic performances, Rihm produced the three-part "Klangbeschreibung" (Sound Description).

Part I (20'15) is for three orchestral groups. Part II (28'40) is for four women's voices, five brass instruments, and six percussion, and uses a a poem by Nietzsche. Part III (38'15) is for full orchestra. Part I is quite mysterious. It is reminiscent of Webern's "Symphony (Op. 21)," a series of tones that seems to shimmer and revolve slowly, a twilight dream with an elusive figure barely glimpsed and always moving just beyond the range of perception. The central vocal movement is quite lovely, though sparse. The full Nietzsche text of "The Wanderer and his Shadow" reads:

Not back anymore? And not forward?
And for the chamois, too, no path?
Then I will wait here and hold fast,
What my eye and hand can hold!
Five feet of earth, the red of dawn,
and below me -- the world, man and death!

Rihm selects only certain words for the singers (not -- not forward -- no path, etc), and so the vocal part does not actually constitute a standard song lyric. Part III is roughly the same length as "Morphonie," and moves toward the work from 15 years earlier in its power and energy. It is fascinating to compare the two and note how Rihm's vocabulary has changed from his early days. He has developed the assurance to build a structure over a long arch that is not characterized by a headlong rush, but rather by more deliberate pacing and diverse sections.

This is great avant music of the late 20th century, performed by what is arguably the world's leading orchestra in contemporary repertoire. Wolfgang Rihm has mellowed noticeably in the new millennium, and continues to reach back to incorporate elements from earlier periods in his recent compositions. "Morphonie" and "Klangbeschreibung" certainly represent major accomplishments along the path that led to Rihm winning the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2003 at the age of 50, an award usually reserved for older composers after a lifetime of achievement.

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