The Strad Issue: June 2019
Description: Making a powerful case for intense and sometimes forbidding music
Musicians: Tianwa Yang (violin) Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Christoph-Mathias Mueller
Works: RIHM Dritte Musik; Lichtzwang (In memoriam Paul Celan); Gedicht des Malers
Catalogue Number: NAXOS 8.573812
This first volume in Naxos’s survey of Wolfgang Rihm’s music for violin and orchestra makes for demanding, challenging, sometimes tense listening, but it’s a deeply rewarding experience nonetheless. Bringing together three meaty works from across the contemporary German composer’s career, it also boasts a near-ideal soloist in Chinese violinist Tianwa Yang, who plays with astonishing precision and vigour throughout, as well as with what’s clearly a profound engagement with this sometimes forbidding music.
Yang maintains a piercing clarity in the stratospheric, sine-wave-like tones of Lichtzwang (1976), an uncompromising work that pits the defiant soloist against often unrestrained violence from the orchestral brass and percussion. Yet there’s a dark sense of lyricism to Yang’s impeccably sculpted phrases, and a sense of her energy spent by its desolate conclusion. There’s more wit and flow in Rihm’s Dritte Musik (1993), almost a concerto grosso in its prominent parts for piano, accordion and percussion, and Yang brings a wonderfully slithering expressivity to its unpredictable mood shifts. She’s immensely detailed, too, observing the composer’s minute details of dynamics and articulation to the letter, with vivid results.
With its caressing lines and its radiant, glowing scoring, the Ysaÿe-inspired Gedicht des Malers (2014) is the most immediately approachable work here, and it draws a glorious sense of rhapsodic fantasy from Yang, who makes her 1730 ‘del Gesù’ sing sweetly in its seemingly endless arching melodies. She receives assertive, finely detailed support from the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz under Christoph-Mathias Mueller, and recorded sound is warm and clear.