RIHM Two Other Movements. Schattenstück
This latest addition to Southwest Radio’s survey of Wolfgang Rihm’s orchestral music offers the chance to compare Two Other Movements, a substantial work from 2004, with a pair of no less gripping compositions from 30 years earlier.
The seven sections of Schattenstück (1982-84) combine to offer a single ‘shadow piece’, subtitled ‘tone-painting for orchestra’. Instrumental shades of dark density, and sustained textures involving shadowings as echos and repetitions, result naturally from a musical style that uneasily evokes the mid-century German mainstream of Karl Amadeus Hartmann and, especially, Bernd Alois Zimmermann. In both Schattenstück and Abkehr (1985) the challenges to continuity that are Rihm’s own speciality seed into a melodramatic ferocity that sometimes disrupts but ultimately enhances the music’s prevailing spirit of brooding reflection. And this well-sustained confrontation between fracturing and integrating impulses emerges with even greater distinctiveness 30 years later in Two Other Movements.
The English title might simply be a friendly gesture to the New York Philharmonic, who commissioned it; but Rihm also used the occasion to give his relish for allusive orchestral tone-painting a vividly ‘other’, American cast. In one sense, disproportion is all – at little more than nine minutes, the second movement is barely a third the length of the first; and while the first movement can be thought of as Rihm’s idiosyncratic take on the New York City of Charles Ives, complete with sprightly brass bands, the second affirms its otherness, transforming the first’s specific sense of place into something more abstract and even more intense.
These radio recordings don’t offer high degrees of sonic refinement, but the performances have a telling blend of rawness and concentration. The result is an ear-opening demonstration of the remarkable Rihm phenomenon.