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Reviews: Rihm: String Quartets Nos. 1, 4, 5 & 8 - DoelenKwartet

Reviews: 2

Review by Beagle November 14, 2006 (11 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I am not reviewing this disc to tell you that I have discovered another rare gem that you really should buy. I am not even warning you away from a disc which you might be tempted to acquire, only to regret. Few if any on this forum would ever be tempted to buy this disc: it has no recommendations, no discussion and no reviews until this one. I am motivated to put it under the spotlight here because I think it is a great injustice to record such pretentious academic nonsense, when so much excellent contemporary music will never see the light of SACD. I happen to know a janitor in Pennsylvania, Chris Alaimo, who writes quartets which are many times more worthy that Rihm’s.

THE SOUND on this disc is very satisfying. There are lovely open silences surrounding the quite subtle string effects, and the venue is just reverberant enough to place each instrument convincingly in space. Four or five stars for a very successful DSD recording.

THE MUSICIANS show extreme skill in meeting the demands which these compositions make upon fingers and strings. A significant part of these pieces is silence -- and extremely difficult almost-silence. And where Bartók is infamous for his six different kinds of pizzicato; Rihm uses at least that many pizzicati, plus spicatto, col legno, sul ponticello etc – and various taps and whacks. Full honours to the Dolenkwartet for doing the almost-impossible exceptionally well!

THE MUSIC…. I listen to the original Second Viennese School, Schoenberg, Alban Berg and especially Webern – often with genuine enjoyment. They have something to say, and say it. That said, I must still brand myself as a revisionist philistine when I say that I am not amused by the compositions on this otherwise splendid disc.

Born in 1952*, Rihm is a Late-Late Tone-Rowist, whose compositions sound more appropriate to the 1960s than to the more recent decades from which they date. Some of the tracks here are more aggressive, some painfully muted – but it’s all the same whether from 1970 or 1988. Rihm declares himself reluctant to speak about his own compositions (“why does it have to be the composer who needs to expound an opinion?”) but he is ready to admit that “My whole development is surely to be understood from the perspective of a continuation of the classical-modern discourse, and that is also how I see myself. Also with respect to the more playful forms which exist among my contemporaries”. – That’s Rihm’s way of saying HE is a SERIOUS composer, none of this Po-Mo light-heartedness for him.

And what is he serious about? He says (reluctantly?) that his first quartet suddenly breaks up “as if suddenly destroyed: eradicated” at measure 109. And he’s right, it does. Besides inventing sounds which make life hell for musicians, what Rihm does best is to shred any thread of musical unity. In brief, Rihm has nothing to say.

*“in Karlsruhe” as the liner-notes state again and again, as if that were his major accomplishment.

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Review by willemvoorneveld June 21, 2012 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Wolfgang Rihm – Streichquartette 1, 4, 8, 5

Four string quartets from German composer Wolfgang Rihm (1952) composed between 1970 and 1988. The quartets continue the line of compositions for string quartets from Hayden, Beethoven, Shostakovich and Bartok to mention a few of the main protagonists in this genre. The newer compositions match the impact of large scale symphonic compositions (Shostakovich, Bartok and Rihm mainly), the only difference being the composers achieve this result with only four instruments.

Rihm forces me to listen and wait for the next movements. His musical message is made painfully clear by the Doelen quartet (or Doelenkwartet in Dutch). Great playing full of energy and surprise, and one may assume that the performances are authentic since the composer himself has frequently coached the team.

I believe that this disc is a must have for its authenticity but also because of its (DSD) recording quality. Recorded in a Church in the city of Delft, the sound develops with a lot of spatial information but never becomes muddy or too big. The acoustic space is very clear on my system. So far my best quartet recording.

wv

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