Rihm: Violin Sonata; Hekton; Antlitz; Phantom und Eskapade

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COMPOSERS: Rihm
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Violin Sonata; Hekton; Antlitz; Phantom und Eskapade
PERFORMER: Ulf Hoelscher (violin)Siegfried Mauser (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 883-2
Wolfgang Rihm’s music for violin and piano constitutes only a tiny fraction of what is already, for a 51-year-old, a prodigious output. But these works, two from the beginning of his career, two written in the last decade, do present the basic elements of his freewheeling approach to composition in a spare, economical context.

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There is never any stinting on the emotion, however. Rihm can load as much expressive weight on to a single violin line as he can into a huge orchestral tutti, and he never sounds constrained by doctrinaire issues of style or language when obtaining the effect he wants. His music has become more stylistically homogeneous over the last 30 years; Antlitz (1993) and Phantom und Eskapade (1993-4) are far more focused in their gestures than the forays into romantic rhetoric in the Violin Sonata (1971-5) and Hekton (1971), though the beginning of the Sonata, an unsupported keening declamation for the violin, would be an arresting opening for a composer of any age, let alone a 19-year-old. The later pieces make a complementary pair: Antlitz withdrawn, almost numbed in its expression, Phantom und Eskapade, far more discursive in its ideas, as its subtitle ‘Piece Fantasies’ suggests. Not major Rihm maybe, but fascinating nevertheless. Andrew Clements