Wolfgang Rihm: Séraphin-Sphäre

Wolfgang Rihm Séraphin-Sphäre

Wolfgang Rihm: Séraphin-Sphäre

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for ensemble
Wolfgang Rihm
1 1 1 0 - 0 1 1 0 - perc(2), hp, pno(2), vln, vla, vc, cb
Instrumentation details:
flute (+picc
bass fl)
oboe (+c.a)
contrabass clarinet in Bb
trumpet in C
1st percussion
2nd percussion
1st piano
2nd piano
More Less



The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

Séraphin-Sphäre has a complex genealogy. Its progenitor is the Étude pour Séraphin (1991/1992) for winds and percussion, which germinated such offshoots as the two versions of Séraphin for musical theatre, Responsorium for female voice and ensemble, the two instances of Form / 2 Formen, in addition to an entire series of compositions, all of which contain the word Séraphin in one way or another, including of course Séraphin-Sphäre.

The source of inspiration for this large, widely diversified family of pieces is the French author, director and actor Antonin Artaud (1896 – 1948) who, since the late 1920s, had also been working as a theoretician on a concept of theatre, initially expressed in the manifesto Le Théâtre et la Cruauté [“The Theatre of Cruelty”]. He travelled through Mexico in 1936, where he wrote Le Théâtre de Séraphin, along with the series of articles entitled Tarahumaras.

Artaud’s thinking was highly influential; it also impressed Wolfgang Rihm; that thinking crystallised in various of Rihm’s pieces – the Séraphin works, of course, but also his opera Die Eroberung von Mexiko [“The Conquest of Mexico”] and the “poème dansé” Tutuguri (which also has several derivatives), orchestra pieces and Tutuguri VI (Kreuze) [“Crosses”] for six percussionists. All in all, Rihm was involved with Artaud’s world from 1981 to 2008 (with some interruptions), the year in which he completed the score of his Concerto “Séraphin” for 16 players.

The composer has characterised his creative process thus:

The shadow theatre which is Séraphin sets a series of works in motion (my own conception, plasmatic generation, etc.), which preserves the reflection of what has gone before, setting the present as an impression and trace and allowing what is to come to be intuited as a projection. I am only speaking here of the sonic manifestation of this still propagating music. It enables every kind of scenic approach, presence/absence of image, motion, configured visible space. These areas are called up (music is also an invocation thereby) to take shape – always newly and differently – or similarly – or not. The sound is absconding while, perhaps, Artaud’s text is consolidating – or else it is a silence in that it becomes ALOUD. (October 1996)

Special prints


Wolfgang Rihm: Séraphin-Sphäre

study score
for ensemble , 20’
Instr.: 1 1 1 0 - 0 1 1 0 - perc(2), hp, pno(2), vln, vla, vc, cb

World première

Philharmonie, Bruxelles (BE)
Ensemble Recherche
Titus Engel

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