The 70th birthday of Wolfgang Rihm: New emotional worlds |  NDR.de - Culture - Music

Status: 03/13/2022 00:01

Wolfgang Rihm is one of the greatest composers of our time. His music has gone out of the niche corner into regular concert programs. Now the composer is 70 years old.

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4 minutes

by Margaret Zander

Thunder echoed across the music scene as Wolfgang Rihm entered the international stage in Donaueschingen. Not because the music was too loud, but because the 22-year-old dared to write expressively. Rehm remembers: “You became like God with us, what does he do, he is the enemy, he does everything completely differently.”

Critics advised him to delete the harmonic syllables from his pieces, but his colleagues watched him anxiously. He was not a arithmetic artist, but a connoisseur. When he reappeared the next afternoon after a tumultuous evening at Villa Massimo in Rome, he had lived drunk and wrote a quartet. “Artificial poisoning prevents me from enjoying life,” Karlsruhe composer Eleonor Boning quotes in her current autobiography.

Rehm’s music is emotionally charged

Through his fantasy opera “Dionysus,” he celebrates the Greek god of wine, madness, and ecstasy based on Nietzsche’s texts, etching shapes out of stone with zeros, with Soto’s voice letting Mozart’s touch blow into the concert hall: “There has always been – from the beginning – the presence of history, present and future …not hidden history as a guarantor of the future, but the existence of history as a precondition for the present and the future.”

Wolfgang Rihm has authored more than 500 works. His music is emotionally charged and demands everything from the performer – and more so, like the trombone part in Jagden und Formen for Uwe Dierksen of the Ensemble Modern: “One might say it was considered unplayable. It’s actually for the player himself a life-changing thing. It’s It changes my life because it makes me think about playing the trombone all over again.”

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Backgrounds that fascinate hearing

That is why Eleanor Boning described the current biography of Wolfgang Rihm as “crossing the line”. She wrote in the preface that he “left the solitary ward for new music” with the first concerts and that his music “also touches people who are unwilling to pioneer”.

Wolfgang Rihm does not explain his music, but he enthusiastically talks about the background. In introductory concerts, he loves to take the audience through the labyrinths of literature, art, history and sounds that enchant the listener. You can experience it at the Salzburg Festival and the Lucerne Festival, among others. “Thinking should be something new, not just a compromise” is one of the main ideas from the Composition Symposium by Wolfgang Rihm.

Enduring encounters with emotional worlds

A few years ago, Wolfgang Rihm contracted cancer, followed by several chemotherapy treatments. “It could go on like this for a few more years, no one knows,” his wife Verena tells journalist Victor Grandes, whose 2020 portrait film has been called The Legacy.

Wolfgang Rihm seems to be in great shape at the moment, visiting several small festivals organized in his honor and making you wish to have many lasting encounters with these emotional realms, which have amazing hearing and thinking changing abilities.

Composer Wolfgang Rihm © picture alliance / dpa |  Bernard Schmidt

My voice: Wolfgang Rihm dared to resonate editing (60 min)

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Culture NDR | Classic Boulevard | 13.03.2022 | Time 14:20

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