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After Ernster Gesang (1996) and Das Lesen der Schrift (2001/2002), Rihm again demonstrates his affinity with temporally distant Brahms in Nähe fern 1. The title is from a poem by Goethe which Brahms also set to music; Rihm was motivated to compose it at the suggestion of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival, to write four orchestral works, one of which could be played before each of Brahms’ symphonies.
Nähe fern 1 is late Romantic music, the expression of a longing perhaps more associated with Mahler than with Brahms. It is saturated with melodies interrupted by passionate outbursts from the horns, bassoon, cor anglais and strings. Apart from a brief allegretto, the tempo is adagio, constantly kept in flux by ritentuto and più vivo passages. At the same time, Nähe fern 1 is the first movement of a four-part symphony.