Rihm

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COMPOSERS: Rihm
LABELS: ECM New Series
WORKS: Et Lux
PERFORMER: Huelgas Ensemble/Paul Van Nevel; Minguet Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 481 1585

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Wolfgang Rihm is a true musical adventurer. Born in Karlsruhe in 1952, the German composer was at first dubbed an exponent of the 1970s ‘New Simplicity’ movement but he has gone on to create an extraordinary catalogue of works which defy classification and are celebrated for their integrity, invention and restless individuality.

Et Lux (2009) is scored for vocal ensemble and string quartet. It is cast in a single, hour-long movement and is at once meditative, mesmeric, alarming and confounding. Rihm’s score adapts the Roman requiem liturgy, thinning and fragmenting the text to allow occasional words and phrases to steal up from the score’s liquid polyphony or to detonate in wild hisses and clamour. Light is at the heart of the work, at once illuminating and blinding, and Rihm powerfully reiterates the words ‘et lux perpetua luceat’, noting that ‘through circling reflection, the comforting yet deeply disturbing meaning of these words might just become perceptible.’

The score’s ‘antique’ sonorities are performed with breathtaking purity of tone by the Huelgas ensemble and Minguet Quartet, while the more angular, explosive elements of the score are met with tremendous emotional intensity. The clarity of ECM’s recording is exemplary, capturing the light and shade of Rihm’s transfixing score.

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Kate Wakeling