This Hanssler disc bears the title RIHM-EDITION, VOL. 1. This is great news for admirers of Rihm's music, and the Edition is off to an amazing start with this collection of four concertos from the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Frieburg, with conductors Michael Gielen and Hans Zender. I recommend this disc without reservation to anyone who is curious about the prolific contemporary German composer -- it instantly becomes the best introduction to Rihm.
Concertos, it seems to me, often provide an accessible doorway to a composer's work. The foregrounding of a solo line over an orchestral counterpart can be easier to follow than the complex structures of, say, symphonies or string quartets. This set of Rihm concertos is a fantastic example of the principle, in any event. All four are either world premieres, or world premiere recordings, or both.
The first, "Musik fur Oboe und Orchester" (16'19" -- 1995/2002) is the least intimidating of the four. Alexander Ott plays the lovely solo part, which is melodic in the best romantic tradition. Some will not doubt see this as Rihm mellowing and making a neoclassical turn, but it is a beautiful piece in its own right. It works toward an energetic and humorous climax. "Styx und Lethe: Musik fur Violoncello und Orchester" (23'34" -- 1997/1998) is the most impressive of the four concertos, and features Lucas Fels on cello. It is a very dense work, but utterly fascinating in its complexity. Rihm describes it as being like "over-packed suitcases." Like the oboe concerto, the cello concerto concludes with frantic energy. Together, they stand as two chapters of a story, beginning light and carefree, and turning dark and tormented. Hans Zender leads the SWR Symphony Orchestra in live performances of both pieces.
"Dritte Musik fur Violine und Orchester" (17'42 -- 1993) features Gottfried Schneider on violin and Michael Gielen as conductor. Finally, "Erster Doppelgesang: Musik fur Viola, Violoncello und Orchester" (14'04" -- 1980) is the earliest work included, and the only one recorded in the studio. Jan Latham-Koenig conducts, Hirofumi Fukai plays viola, and Walter Grimmer plays cello. These string concertos maintain the high level of music. The "Doppelsegang" is a striking work with several strong tonal passages that emerge as out of storm clouds, and it concludes with percussion beating down the strings al Schnittke. Rihm, who wrote it in Rome, says "[i]n April the war cries were ringing out louder and louder. Why should it not be said? The drum, small and malicious has to do with it. The singing is over." Apparently referring to the intensifying Cold War confrontation of the time, this is the most political comment I have run across from Rihm.
Hanssler retroactively identifies KLANGBESCHREIBUNG (2001) and TUTUGURI (2003) as part of the Rihm- Edition. VOLUME TWO has since been released, with three 1970s orchestral works -- see my review, and now VOLUME THREE, with a mix of orchestral and choral works.
I look forward to future releases in Hanssler's Rihm-Edition without reservation!
(verified purchase from a record shop near Dupont Circle in Washington D.C.)