Wolfgang Rihm: Klavierwerke (1966-2000) features 35 years of the great German post-modernist composer's works written for what he calls the "instrument of compositional creation." In his compact disc debut, German pianist Udo Falkner performs Rihm's piano works with the kind of compulsive dedication that makes them sound as much created as re-created. With his pointed attacks, crisp releases, impeccable articulation, precise balances, and uncanny ability to sustain a musical argument over long spans, Falkner is a composer's ideal performer: one who seems to disappear into the composer's vision.
Aesthetically, Rihm is closer to a post-romantic modernist like Henze than to a no-holds-barred radical like Stockhausen. Tonality is not altogether rejected despite the all-pervading atonality. Rhetorical gestures are not entirely disdained, though the music's core conflict is between violence and silence. Occasionally, a certain coy romanticism is even hinted at in a turn of phrase or a harmonic progression. Over the course of Falkner's performances, Rihm's development as a composer becomes apparent from the overtly nostalgic Sechs Preludes of 1967 through the brutally aggressive Klavierstücke No. 4 of 1974 to the elusively allusive Nachstudie of 1994. Anyone interested in postwar German music should by all means try this three-disc set. Telos' digital sound is very close and frighteningly vivid.