"I am the Angel of Despair. My hands share out ecstasy, daze, oblivion, the body's lust and agony. My speech is Silence, my song is Scream. Terror dwells in the shadow of my wings. My hope is the last breath. My hope is the first battle. I am the knife with which the dead opens their coffin. I am that shall be. My flight is Revolt, my heaven the abyss of tomorrow."
These words are sung by two sopranos, one standing next to the conductor, the other in front of him, behind the clarinets and cellos or at the back of the orchestra, on a dais. A diagram in the score indicates the arrangement of the instrumental groups on stage and all round the hall. The latter include five percussion players, two trumpets and two violins.
The title of Wolfgang Rihm's composition Frau / Stimme and its very orthography stem from Heiner Müller's play Der Auftrag. Erinnerung an eine Revolution ("The Commission. Memories of a Revolution").
"Wolfgang Rihm has for the past several years felt a certain affinity to Luigi Nono and the two have become closely acquainted. Of the musical nature of his relationship Rihm has made no secret but that is not to say by any means that this extends to any imitation on Rihm's part; on the contrary, such is the strength of his character that he has instead been able to exploit such closeness and nourish his own powers of originality. His work Frau / Stimme for soprano and orchestra with soprano - in other words, for two sopranos - to 'words' by Heiner Müller, displays in its structure certain similarities with Nono's lapidary, static search for sound. And yet at all times it is recognisable as coming only from Rihm, spontaneously obeying the inherent nature of the material, born out of a rich, sensuous and physical aural imagination."
Wolfgang Schreiber, Süddeutsche Zeitung
"Wolfgang Rihm's Frau / Stimme is distinguished by an extreme economy of means. Rihm, who only a few years ago was still subject to accusations of late-Romantic opulence in his output, has since written scores of a sparing, concentrated nature. He is no longer out to lull, rather his music is dominated by extremes of sound. Here, too, it is scarcely possible not to be drawn in by the sometimes painful aggression of this music."
Stephan Hoffmann, Die Welt
"The music of Rihm is concentrated with associations of sentiment and their corresponding sound world which he links with words like 'angel', 'I', 'hands', 'oblivion', 'knife', 'abyss', to name but a few. The idiom of this densely worked and effective composition is marked by high expressive power, often driven into the domain of noise. The passage where one voice dreamily follows the other like an echo, is one of the most beautiful, most lyrical and intimate moments ever composed by Wolfgang Rihm."
Dieter Kölmel, Stuttgarter Nachrichten