Poème du Peintre
Wolfgang Rihm is on—minimally—fire. He knocks out new, major works at a rate that it makes you wonder if anybody else is still composing at all, in Germany. A Horn Concerto in Lucerne, a Triple Concerto, the "Second" Piano Concerto (terrific, yet be reported on!) in Salzburg, and now his Sixth Violin Concerto*, written for and dedicated to Renaud Capuçon, performed by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra [on Twitter] under Philippe Jordan and played in their new “Fridays@7” concert series at the Wiener Konzerthaus.
W.Rihm (+A.Berg), Time Chant (+ VC),
A.S.Mutter / J.Levine / CSO
W.Rihm (+S.Currier), WORK_in_QUESTION (+Time Machines etc.),
A.S.Mutter / NYPhil / M.Francis, A.Gilbert
Having had a chance to watch the violin concerto come together throughout three rehearsals, it was enormous how much the work had developed by the time it hit the stage at prime time. Wolfgang Rihm took himself back for the first rehearsal, even though what he heard must have been a good deal from what he might have imagined. Only when orchestra and conductor had made the natural progress that occurs in rehearsal, did he more frequently interject, questioning stray notes that were either wrong in the printed score or the parts, and suggesting occasional interpretative adjustments. Repeated timpani notes toward the end of the concerto weren’t quite right to him. Helpfully, Jordan interpreted his request: “Oh, advancing like a steam engine?” Rihm, whose gigantic cranium makes him look like his own bobble-head figure, shook said head: “No—breathing, hovering, advancing. Like a thing, a being, like a creature.” Jordan: “Ok. One more time; this time more like a Thing!”
Just as Rihm has written the Piano Concerto specifically for and around Tzimon Barto, or violin concertos for the specific talents of Anne-Sophie Mutter and Carolin Widmann, Poème du Peintre is tailored to Renaud Capuçon. After the first rehearsal, the soloist suggested that it was really his language. It’s hard to say for me what that exactly is, not knowing Capuçon’s playing and style intimately enough. Perhaps it is the nervous, or rather: alert energy that is woven through the concert like a silver thread. The concerto’s name, “Painter’s Poem”, stems from the idea of composing a work that is to Max Beckmann’s portrait of Max Reger a concerto to portray Ysaÿe. Rihm and Capuçon both adore Ysaÿe (well beyond the—rightly—hailed solo violin sonatas), which might serve as the basis for the French violinist so taking to the work. The clichéd description of his performance, without any fear of saying something controvertible would be, and is: “totally committed”.
Chanda VanderHart, Pleasing Rihm and Dvorak from Capuçon and the Symphoniker, but 'concept' falters (bachtrack, January 11, 2015)