Wolfgang Rihm: 3. Doppelgesang

Wolfgang Rihm 3. Doppelgesang
3. Doppelgesang

Wolfgang Rihm: 3. Doppelgesang

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for clarinet, viola and orchestra
Wolfgang Rihm
clarinet, viola
2 1 2 1 - 2 1 1 0 - hp, str(10 10 10 6 4)
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute
1st clarinet in A
2nd clarinet in A
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
trumpet in C
violin I(10)
violin II(10)
Commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, on the occasion of the Minnesota Orchestra´s Centennial, and by the Orchestre National de France (Radio France)
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3. Doppelgesang

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

From an interview with Laurie Shulman

1. Your “Erster Doppelgesang” is for viola [&] cello; “Zweiter Doppelgesang” for clarinet and cello. Now you return after 20 years to the Doppelgesang idea, this time for clarinet and viola. Is there something special about these three instruments sounding together that appealed to you for this ‘double concerto - double song’ idea?

Rihm: Already at the time of composing the “First” and the “Second Double Song”, I was thinking of writing a “Third” one, for clarinet and viola. Years have gone by with other ideas taking precedence. What has remained, though, has been the idea of concertante works of a cantabile, arioso character – instrumental music to be sung, as it were. 

This idea has been uppermost in my mind in nearly all my works for a solo wind or string instrument with orchestra: I endeavour to write “singing” solo parts, with well-nigh no figuration or “padding”; a pure drawing, a sung line, a kind of instrumental cantata. As for the “Double Songs”, the dialogue character is embedded in the line itself: two voices sing one which is a dialogue within itself. The fact that both voices issue from a shared medium range, may have enhanced my predilection for instruments most at home in that particular register.

2. Does the sonority of Mozart’s Trio K.498 have any special significance for you? Or any other work combining clarinet and viola?

Rihm: Mozart is a paragon with the inexhaustible riches of his forms and his playful sombreness. I did not, however, have any specific work in mind.

3. The “Dritter Doppelgesang” seems to be in a symmetrical arch form. Did you have that concept in mind? 

E.g. First and last movements fast

First movement with trombone (tacet for the rest)

Last movement with trumpet (tacet for the rest)

Second and fourth movements both Sonetto, with harp obbligato

Central Notturno with emphasis on woodwind serenade sound

Rihm: The conspicuously symmetrical arrangement of form is rather unusual for me – perhaps that was precisely that may have intrigued me: to conceal my love of asymmetrical forms behind this apparently symmetrical one.

4. Is there significance to your use of the terms “Sonetto” and “nocturne”? For example, the harp in the two Sonetti - Orpheus? Poetry and music? 

Rihm: The two movements which I call “Sonetto” have to do with two Petrarca settings composed just before embarking on the “Third Double Song”. They “shimmer through” like objects resting deep below the surface of water – their outlines to be made out if the light happens to be reaching them at the right angle. The “Notturno” between the two Sonnets is, for me, the most intimate section of the work.

5. In your treatment of the two solo instruments, I notice some ‘conversation,’ some rhythmic unison, and some places where you have written almost a medieval ‘hocket’ effect.  Is that what you had in mind?

Rihm: As stated above, the voice-leading of the two solo instruments is in the main one of a single voice conducting a dialogue with itself. The occasional hocquet-like aspects are indications, perhaps, of the dramatic character of the interior dialogue of  the single voice made up as it is of two personalities: separation within the smallest space.

6. Your title translates to “double song”. The ‘song’ part implies vocal character, which you specify in Sonetto I [cantando] but the melodic leaps are wide and the dynamic changes quite sudden throughout the work. Is there any connection to singing, or is that just a title?

Rihm: The composition as a whole is really a vocal scene. The orchestra not only “accompanies” but is itself a substantial part of the cantabile process. The vocal aspect has in this instance nothing to do with “standing on the stage”. Much rather, it is a psychological process of the utmost intimacy, sensitivity and formal richness. It is a game of nerves, the self-abandonment of lines.

7. There is no cadenza other than the brief unaccompanied passage in the opening Agitato (p.31). Is that because the work is so long and so difficult that nearly all the writing for the two soloists is cadenza-like?

Rihm: I would regard a “cadenza”- like articulation in this hardly if at all figurative context as an alien remnant of the “concert world”.  However, you are right: the technical demands would make it appear as though the whole composition were a “cadenza”: a quasi recitative.  It is particularly demanding in those sections which on the surface  do not sound virtuosic.  We have cited Mozart above…

8. Is there anything else that you would like the audience to know?

Rihm: I feel that music, just as any other art form, cannot be explained. But: you can learn more and more about it and can, perhaps, find answers through one’s own imagination and ideas. Hearing and perceiving are already the beginning of a dialogue. All music could, through the listener, become a double song – that would be the ideal case.

Special prints

3. Doppelgesang

Wolfgang Rihm: 3. Doppelgesang

study score
for clarinet, viola and orchestra , 32’
Instr.: 2 1 2 1 - 2 1 1 0 - hp, str(10 10 10 6 4)

World première

Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis (US)
Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä
Main soloists:
Burt Hara, cl; Tom Turner, vla

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