On Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 7:30pm, a collective of New York City-based musicians join forces to perform Wolfgang Rihm’s Vocal and Instrumental Chamber Music at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Cary Hall (450 West 37th Street). This concert is presented as part of Strange Scenes – The Music of Wolfgang Rihm, a festival running September 13 – November 27 designed to provide a multifaceted immersion into Wolfgang Rihm’s musical world. The festival takes its name from Rihm’s piano trio Fremde Szenen (programmed on this performance) and alludes to the composer’s frequent inspiration by literary fragments.
Mivos Quartet, “one of America's most daring and ferocious new-music ensembles” (The Chicago Reader) and Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble, “a brilliant young ensemble defining a fresh and virtuosic American sound” (The New Yorker), present the U.S. Premiere of ET LUX (2009), a rarely performed requiem for vocal quartet and string quartet.
Renowned for his prolific outpouring of virtuosic, often hyper-Romantic works, Rihm explores a very different side of his aesthetic voice in ET LUX. The piece is inspired by his memories of singing in choirs as a youth, and reminiscences of melodies from Brahms and Mozart with fragments of text from the requiem mass. A startlingly beautiful tapestry is woven together, with bursts of intense emotion cutting through an otherworldly texture of sustained lines. ET LUX presents the listener with a requiem radically disintegrated and distilled in a profoundly personal way, while maintaining and even heightening the sense of spiritual poignancy we feel when contemplating mortality.
Rihm is well-known for his great penchant for German literature and poetry. Mezzo-soprano Sophie Delphis and pianist Hannah Harnest perform two sets of lieder with texts by E. Mörike (2009) and F. Rückert (2008). Both vocal cycles present poems with rich romantic metaphors and language, and very often speak about the human existence, death, and the meaning of life.
Violinist Abigel Kralik and cellist Julian Schwarz join Harnest to perform the festival’s eponymous work, Fremde Szene II (1982-1983). Subtitled “Character Piece,” this is the middle part of a three-movement trio that is very often performed separately for its significance as “declaration of love” of the composer to Robert Schumann. Szene or “Scena” was Schumann’s supposed expression of having the project to write a piano trio. Rihm explains, “the word fremd (strange or foreign) has a deep romantic core and reminds of the opening phrases of some of the poetry that Schubert set to music. It stands for the other, the place of longing, or the place from where you might get an answer from. In this music, I used the mode of speaking of someone else, which I discussed through imitating it in my own unique way.”
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