This disc is Rihm-Edition, Volume Five in Hanssler's fine series, overseen by the composer. With it, we come up to the present with four orchestral works (Musik fur Orchestra) written from 2002 to 2008. Together they form a coherent flow, to use one of Rihm's favorite terms, not an actual symphony using sonata form, but rather an hour-long canvas that has a beginning, myriad developments, and a dramatic conclusion.
The entire Hanssler Rihm-Edition features the orchestras of the SWR (South West German Radio): the SWR Stuttgart and the SWR Baden-Baden und Freiburg. All four Verwandlungen (metamorphoses) are performed by the SWR Stuttgart. Christian Arming leads the first two while Matthias Pintscher leads the third and fourth. They were recorded between December 2006 and November 2008.
The Verwandlungen clearly represent a further mellowing of Rihm since the late '90s, a move toward greater use of tonality and classical-music audience friendliness. At first I found this to be disappointing. I find Rihm's more avant-garde music of the mid-'70s through the mid-'90s to be some of the most compelling music of its time. I rate this disc four stars instead of five because it is on the light side, but realize that for many listeners this might make it outstanding compared to Rihm's heavier, more avant works. The Verwandlungen are certainly complex and varied, and taken for what it is -- music that clearly evokes the music of roughly 100 years ago, reworked through Rihm's unique voice, using his method of "vegetative composing" -- it is thoroughly enjoyable. I have been listening to quite a bit of early 20th century music myself lately, and it makes a fine complement.
The first Verwandlung begins quietly, slowly and mysteriously. My first impression was Debussy (wink -- Impressionism), but then a minor-key theme begins, sounding more like Mahler and Vienna. So we have a fin de siecle setting, alternating between Debussy and Mahler. The second Verwandlung includes jazzy passages reminiscent of Les Six. The Verwandlung 3 is, according to the liner notes by Rainer Peters, "an adaptation of the Strauss-Schreker-Korngold palette," and marks an increase in energy over the first two movements. Finally, Verwandlung 4 enters with a bang, a dramatic culmination to all that has come before. D minor openings are heard, echoing Beethoven and Bruckner, and A minor and F minor triads resound instead of the atonal clusters that would have been heard in the works of the younger Rihm.
Wolfgang Rihm has emerged as one of the leading composers of our day. His oeuvre now includes over 400 works. He was honored with a Total Immersion weekend by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in May 2010. Then in July 2010 the Salzburg Festival, where his new opera "Dionysos," based on texts by Nietzsche, had its premiere, presented "Kontinent Rihm," which included 10 programs of his music, along with the works of composers who have influenced him. And in November 2010 Anne-Sophie Mutter premiered his new violin concerto "Lichtes Spiel" with the New York Philharmonic, a work he wrote for her.
Bravo to Hanssler for its ongoing Rihm-Edition! Every release so far is well worth hearing. I couldn't have been happier to find this disc in Dussmann in Berlin, a few blocks from the Brandenburg Gate, between Unter den Linden and the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof, a great store with the entire basement devoted to classical music.
(verified purchase from Dussmann in Berlin)