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Wolfgang Rihm: Chiffre I

  • for piano and 7 instruments
  • cl, bsn, tpt, tbn, vc(2), cb(1)
  • Duration: 8’
  • Soloists:
  • Instrumentation details:
    clarinet in Bb (+bass cl(Bb))
    trumpet in C
    1st violoncello
    2nd violoncello
  • Composer: Wolfgang Rihm

Work introduction

These eight minutes are fully charged with musical events. In the first half, the piano takes the main role by far, performing as a kind of piano furioso, driving the music breathlessly onward, the part replete with sforzatissimo and fortissimo marcato, barely allowing the other instruments to have a say.

A short section follows, in which the piano seems exhausted, but the rapid triple forte, sempre marcatissimo drive soon returns. Then the mood and tempo change again, as the roles are newly distributed; the ensemble takes the lead – quick, restless, loud and abounding with sforzatissimi, the piano adding commentary. A dialogue between the solo instrument and the ensemble fuels the music’s impulse anew until, just before the end, the ensemble instruments begin to pulse. The piece ends with a quadruple forte in the piano.

Translation: Grant Chorley


The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Saarbrücken (DE)
RSO Saarbrücken
Bernhard Kontarsky
Main soloists:
Aloys Kontarsky, Klav

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