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Wolfgang Rihm: Gedrängte Form

  • for ensemble
  • 1 1 1 0 - 0 1 1 0 - perc(2), hp, pno, guit, vln(1), vla(1), vc(1), cb(1)
  • Duration: 6’
  • Instrumentation details:
    cor anglais
    bass clarinet in Bb
    trumpet in C
    1st percussion
    2nd percussion
  • Composer: Wolfgang Rihm
  • Dedication: George Benjamin gewidmet
  • Commission: Kompositionsauftrag des Ensemble Modern

Work introduction

Reinhold Brinkman, one of the major musicologists of our times (now working as professor at Harvard University), has coined the highly graphic description 'Compressed Symphony' for Schönberg's Chamber Symphony Op 9. Having detached this inspiring and graphic notion from the object it denotes, it now continues its scheming existence in my phantasising composer's brain. Again and again, it has proved to represent an ideal for me - and it goes without saying that as a result, Schönberg becomes regularly part of the picture, in creating compositions as batteries, tight and charged with energy. This piece is a case in point. But I would not be me, were I not already working simultaneously in a way to contradict the above. After all, some compositions lead a peculiar double existence (as though they were composers) - they are part of whole bunches of life's spheres, here and there being their own opposites.

The piece, then, that waits to be  sent off, wrapped up as a small packet of muscles, could at one time be transferred on to a large stream and whirl where, who knows, it might be destined to sink bereft of all its strength. The reason is that "Gedrängte Form" is part of a series of compositions linked together by their form, which have I named, apologetically, Jagden und Formen and which I have been restlessly pursuing. To the same series belong Pol, Nucleus, Gejagte Form, Verborgene Formen - and now also a packed form (gedrängte Form).

Some time in the future, it will turn into a composed concert that there will be no escaping from. No, no, not to worry, it will have an ending, but there will be no coming and going. No appearances, no bow-takings, no applause and all the fooling around that have been forced by the most advanced avantgardism to retreat into the dramaturgical concept of family music making. But that is not what it's all about. Why then mention it? It happens to be on the tip of my tongue. I just had to have it out. Let me then sum it up: Jagden und Formen of the future have hereby released a wonderful Gedrängte Form like the preliminary sculpture of a figure which will surely find its place at one of Hell's gates. Is that all clear? Right. And another thing: this composition is dedicated to George Benjamin, whose powerfully delineated subtle sound world I admire.

Wolfgang Rihm

Berlin, 6 November 1998


The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Alte Oper, Frankfurt am Main (DE)
Ensemble Modern
George Benjamin

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