Markus Bellheim

Wolfgang Rihm: Piano Pieces

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It hardly seems creditable that not one but two multi-disc sets of the piano music of Wolfgang Rihm could be released within months of each other. But so it is: Telos Music released a three-disc set of Rihm's complete output for solo piano from 1966 through 2000 featuring Udo Falkner in late spring 2008, while here Neos Music has released a two-disc set of much of Rihm's music for solo piano written between 1970 and 2000, plus a couple of more recent pieces featuring Markus Bellheim in the summer of the same year. Falkner's attacks are more brutal, his touch more percussive, and his interpretations more aggressive, while Bellheim's sonorities are more molded, his tone more balanced, and his interpretations more introspective. Both approaches work in Rihm's not entirely post-modernist but not exactly neo-Romantic piano music, and one could legitimately prefer Falkner one day and Bellheim the next. Of course, Falkner's greater completeness is a factor, but so is Bellheim's inclusion of more recent works. As far as sound goes, Telos' is cleaner and clearer, but Neos' is warmer and deeper. Either set will satisfy the casual Rihm fan -- if there is such a thing -- but hardcore Rihm devotees will surely want to have both.

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