Album: Wolfgang Rihm, Astralis: Choral Works (Harmonia Mundi)

 

In his instructions for the half-hour long "Astralis", the centrepiece of this album, Wolfgang Rihm indicates that it should be performed both as slowly and as quietly as possible, instructions that impose a hovering, static quality on the piece, rendering it in a state of perpetual becoming rather than being.

It's a strange injunction, yet in keeping with the composer's Christian existentialist background, and with the claim in the Novalis poem from which the text derives, that "space and time no longer order the world". The RIAS Kammerchor's forces deftly apply the misty tonalities here and in two suites that bookend the album, one of which bears the experimental hallmarks of a precocious piece written in 1968, when Rihm was a tyro aged just 16.

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