Rihm: Trios 1969-94: Chiffre IV; Am Horizont; Verzeichnung – Studie; Déploration; Second String Trio; Paraphrase; In nuce

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COMPOSERS: Rihm
LABELS: Kairos
WORKS: Trios 1969-94: Chiffre IV; Am Horizont; Verzeichnung – Studie; Déploration; Second String Trio; Paraphrase; In nuce
PERFORMER: Ensemble Recherche; Teodoro Anzellotti (accordion), Yukiko Sugawara (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 0012092 KAI
Wolfgang Rihm is prolific enough to keep any number of contemporary-music labels supplied with repertoire for a good few years. Kairos is doing its best: these are its third and fourth discs of his works to appear in the last year, and they explore areas of his output often taken for granted when attempting to get a perspective on such wide-ranging productivity. The operas get noticed, of course, so do the big orchestral scores and the string quartets, but the wealth of ensemble and instrumental pieces, often grouped in series, aren’t given the close scrutiny they deserve.

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Siegfried Mauser’s piano collection is right up to date, even including Rihm’s little 75th-birthday tribute to Boulez, Auf einem anderen Blatt, premiered in London last March. The other works here, though, are more significant. The Sixth Piano Piece is a sequence of tiny bagatelles strung together like beads – generally quiet and contemplative, but sometimes cut across with frightening, torn-off convulsions; the half-hour Nachstudie, based upon an earlier work for piano, wind and percussion, delves into the overtones and resonances of the instrument, while the five Zwiesprache (Dialogues) are memorials to dead friends, by turns gentle, consoling and angry.

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The same mastery of mood and fastidious calculation of texture characterises Ensemble Recherche’s survey of Rihm’s trios, too. They span 25 years, from the Second String Trio of 1969 that was one of the composer’s first acknowledged works, to the compressed 1994 In nuce, for violin, cello and double bass. Deploration (flute, cello and percussion) and Paraphrase (cello, percussion and piano) are slimmer, less concentrated early pieces, while Am Horizont is perhaps the most extraordinary music here, a tribute to Kagel that explores sustained, stranded sounds from the unlikely combination of violin, cello and accordion. Andrew Clements