Wolfgang Rihm: Complete Works for Violin & Piano

This is music not for the faint of heart. Wolfgang Rihm is an expressionist composer, who cites Mahler, Schoenberg, and Boulez among his influences. Rihm’s an extremely prolific composer, and while his music may reflect his influences, it’s certainly not derivative. Rihm has a distinctive voice and his music unfolds according to his own logic.

Unber die LInei VII for solo violin is a massive work that presents Rihm at his bare essence. Double-stops and arpeggios are rare in this work — most of the music is a single-line melody. But what a melody! It skips around in a pointillist fashion, then becomes tenderly lyrical, then hops up to the extreme register for some softly played harmonics. All the while, though, the music has a sense of direction. And that sense helps the listener follow the player through this world Rihm sets them out to explore.

Eine Violinsonate and Hekton come from the early 1970’s and share a similar style. The music is disjunct, with sudden, wide leaps in register. By contrast, Antlitz and Phantom und Eskapade, composed twenty years later, show significant growth in Rihm’s style. The leaps are still there, but its now but one aspect of Rihm’s musical language, rather than the defining feature of it.

Tianwa Yang and Nicholas Rimmer have firm command of this material — which is no mean feat. If you’re up for some active listening of thought-provoking music, then this may be the disc for you. Rihm’s music is adventurous and challenging, but never dull. And you’ll hear some darned fine playing, too.

Wolfgang Rihm: Complete Works for Violin & Piano 
Tianwa Yang, violin; Nicholas Rimmer, piano 

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