Rihm. Breve introducción al genial compositor alemán Wolfgang Rihm del periódico The Guardian. Hoy 13 de marzo de 1952 nace Rihm

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A guide to Wolfgang Rihm's music.

His enormous output and bewildering variety of styles and sounds make Rihm a true original, and worth getting to know

Wolfgang Rihm ... one of the most radical figures writing today

Tom Service
Monday 24 September 2012 The Guardian

Tradition, Mahler once famously said, is "Schlamperei" - which means something akin to sloppiness. Mahler meant it in terms of performance practice, but it's an axiom many contemporary composers have followed to the letter, throwing out any "sloppy" vestiges of previous traditions, the tainted sentimentality of romanticism, the overblown rhetoric of expressionism, or any of the too easily imitated "isms" that have been part of the story of 20th and 21st-century music. If that's a rough axiom for many of the greats of contemporary music, if you're a German composer, it pretty well became an ideology after the second world war.

All of which makes this week's composer one of the most radical figures writing today, precisely because of his superficial conservatism. To those who know his music, he's someone whose unstoppable musical creativity, whose tumult of pieces for orchestras, opera houses, string quartets, for the familiar forms of musical institutions, and for famous soloists such as Anne-Sophie Mutter, makes him one of the most approachable, engaging and profound composers writing music today. I give you Wolfgang Rihm, arguably contemporary music's most prolific composer, with more than 400 works – and counting – to his name.

Born in Karlsruhe in 1952, when the generation of Stockhausen, Boulez and Nono were in their first, iconoclastic phase of maturity, Rihm had already written a symphony as a teenager (it's astonishingly good, too, a compelling essay in a wildly expressive atonal language that teems with ideas, energy, and meaning). As a young composer, he challenged the masters of ideological purity with a language that wasn't afraid to reference, to transmute and to deal with the music of the past, composing pieces that had the temerity to take on the legacy of Austro-German music rather than rejecting the achievements or the aesthetic of Berg and Schoenberg, or Schumann, Schubert or Beethoven.

This was a crazy way of doing things for any self-respecting avant garde composer in the 1970s, and Rihm unwittingly found himself part of a movement misleadingly called (aren't they all?) the "New Simplicity". But before this becomes too much of a German-new-music version of the Judean People's Front v the People's Front of Judea, the point is that Rihm's gigantic musical output – one of the greatest and grandest in terms of sheer quantity of hours of music composed, of consistent quality, of massive emotional range, of variety of forces and scales – resists any attempt to reduce its reach to a few handy labels.

If you listen to his Lichtes Spiel for violin soloist and strings, you might think that Rihm specialises in modern-sounding nostalgia; if you hear one of his Fetzen for string quartet and accordion, you'll have him down as a splintery modernist, all sharp elbows and crystalline energy; if you go for one of his operas such as the recent Dionysos, you might hear him as the heir to Berg's operatic canon; or if you hear his cello concerto, the Konzert in Einem Satz, you could describe him as a lyrical atonalist, picking up where Schoenberg and Karl Amadeus Hartmann left off. Listen to one of his Klavierstücke, though, and you're hearing music of blistering, unpredictable intensity.

When I met Rihm a few years ago, he shamed me by giving me 30 CDs of his music, none of which I had heard, and yet I had thought I had got to grips with at least some of his music before I saw him.

The first thing you need to do with Rihm is give up on any idea of coming to terms with the whole, generously proportioned effulgence of his life's work, and remember that the longest journey starts with a single step, or in this case, a single work.

Begin with this one, and promise me you'll stay with it until the end: Jagden und Formen, a 50-minute, single-movement musical thrill-ride for large ensemble that embodies some of the signature qualities of Rihm's music: its addictive energy, its torrent of ideas, its massively ambitious scale, as well as its uncanny sense of drama and pacing. The title means "hunts and forms"; I prefer thinking of it as "hunting and forming", because the music is in a constant state of volatility, of change. A spirit of restless dynamism animates every bar of this music. And that's why it's important you stay with it until the end (although YouTube hasn't got an upload of the complete piece; you need Spotify for that) because when you get there, you'll experience one of the most life-enhancing jolts of musical energy in post-war music. Whatever else post-tonal music was supposed to do, it was supposed to sound like this.

You'll find a similar sense of momentum, even mania, in the movements that make up his Chiffre-Zyklus, but for a concentrated shot of Rihm at his best, go for any of his by turns monumental and delicate Piano Pieces (Klavierstücke) or any of the Fetzen, and for a elementally powerful hit of Rihm the dramatist, have a listen to the psycho-philosophical narrative of Jakob Lenz, his first and most successful opera, or try his larger-scale music-theatre pieces such as Die Erorberung von Mexico ("The Conquest of Mexico") or the experimental soundscapes of Die Hamletmaschine.

Rihm's influence as a teacher at the Hochschule in his hometown of Karlsruhe, and as a writer, thinker and proselytiser, and the infectious big-heartedness of his personality, makes him one of the most positive presences in the landscape of new music. Keeping up with his ceaseless flow of creativity is a life's work in itself. So get out there and go hunting and forming in Rihm-land.

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