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Rihm: Jagden und Formen

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 13, 2002
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Ensemble Modern
  • Conductor: Dominique My
  • Composer: Wolfgang Rihm
  • Audio CD (August 13, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B0000630QB
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,006 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Bruce Hodges on January 6, 2004
Format: Audio CD
This is a marvelous recording. I have enjoyed Rihm's work for years (such as "Time Chant," written for Anne-Sophie Mutter) and this piece just clinches my admiration. "Jagden and Formen" ("Hunts and Forms") rushes by in a blur of multiple rhythms and fast tempi that are breathlessly executed by Ensemble Modern. The savvy conductor (new to me) is Dominique My, and she clearly knows what to do with Rihm's nervous, glittering opus.

Although the work is conceived in a single, unbroken movement (about 45 minutes long), the disc includes track numbers to easily locate individual sections, to help the listener grasp the work's structure, according to the notes. The track numbers also help to quickly locate a particular section.

This is a bracing new composition, and easy to recommend to anyone wanting a fast, energy-packed listening experience. The virtuosic playing -- good on its own -- and intelligent conducting are complemented by DG's excellent sound that enables all of Rihm's gestures to be audible. For some who complain that "no good music is being written today," this outstanding recording begs to differ.
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Format: Audio CD
"Hunts and forms": The CD booklet compares the motion of the music with that of a high-speed train - yet that comparison does not quite hold. In the main thread of the music there rarely is a "run-away" motion as can only be formed by regular rhythms; rather the irregular rhythms found in the main threads provide a constant game of holding back/jumping forward, with a jerking motion that nonetheless overall pushes the music ahead. This music does not establish a Beethovenian forward momentum, yet a high level of energy of motion is found nonetheless.
Regular rhythms - as "run-away" patterns - mostly occur just for a brief moments, only to quickly disappear again. Only in the second half of the work there are a few passages where the music moves in more extended, massive unison motion of fast regular rhythms; the massive circular motion in these few moments pushes the music forward with almost barbaric, primeval vehemence, in great contrast to the refinement and elegance of the musical motion and timbres usually found in the work. All these unison motions in regular rhythm disperse, crumble quite rapidly, however.
From the very beginning it is clear that not only the motion is agitated, but also that the music features an excited tone. This tone is at first mainly associated with the predominant playing of smaller ensemble groups; bigger tutti initially feature more massiveness than excitement of tone.
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Format: Audio CD
This Deutsche Grammaphon disc--part of the "20/21" series of contemporary music recordings--contains Wolfgang Rihm's great piece "Jagden und Formen" performed by the Ensemble Modern conducted by Dominique My. Here the German composer characteristically blends the avant-garde tradition with echoes of German romanticism, especially concerned with the idea of a "hunt" for form, all resulting in an exhilarating work that is among the strongest entries in the "20/21" series yet.

In the 1990s Rihm wrote three pieces which explored the concept of form, "Gejagte Form" (1995-1996), "Gedraengte Form" (1995-1998), and "Verborgenne Formen" (1995-1997). He later collected these together to form "Jagden and Formen" ("Hunts and Forms"), yet this is not a mere hour-long concert of each piece in succession. Instead, Rihm weaves them together so that "Gejagte Form" serves as the skeleton of the work, appearing five times, first on two violins out of phase with each other, strings, flutes, clarinents, and harp, then on woodwinds, then on horns and trumpets, a fourth time on horns and trombones, and a last time for strings and piano. In between these structral elements, the piece abounds with unexpected turns, build-ups that fall when the "quarry" eludes the musicians/hunters, moments of uncertainty, and even the occasionally lyric or engine-like passage. Suspense is constant; rarely does contemporary repertoire, many of whose godfathers (I'm thinking especially of Webern) were compelled to keep their pieces short, offer an hour-long work that never lets the audience's attention wander. Furthermore, Rihm's orchestration, highlighting winds, percussion (especially the marimba), harp, and guitar over the usual strings, results in a use of colour as exotic as anything in Messiaen.
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Format: Audio CD
One continuous 51-minute composition, "JAGDEN UND FORMEN (Hunts and Forms)" is in ceaseless, lively motion, a headlong rush that pauses, shifts instrumentation -- "multiple superimposed lines in constant flux" as the liner notes put it -- and then continues hunting. Performed with precision by the Ensemble Modern, the piece begins with the graduated entry of several "desks" of instruments -- strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. The strings play a lesser role in the overall scheme, to give a sense of the timbre.

The obvious points of comparison for me are Boulez and Reich. Perhaps more similar technically to Boulez, JAGDEN UND FORMEN is more frantic and bold than Répons, with its dreamy circularity. JAGDEN UND FORMEN has an overall effect similar to Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, at least in contrast to traditional classical orchestration and composition, partly due to the use of "swing-like cross-rhythms" and marimba. This is a fascinating work which, also like REPONS, leaves me somewhat dissatisfied.

By now (2014) several recordings are available that use material that overlaps with JAGDEN UND FORMEN, including "'Concerto' (Dithyramb)" (Kairos/2009) and Fetzen (Winter & Winter/2011), and so we can identify it as a recognizable period in Rihm's composing trajectory.
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