Following my prime Piccolo interlude yesterday afternoon, a short jaunt across town took me to the College of Charleston’s Simons Center Recital Hall, where the first of Spoleto USA’s four cutting-edge Music in Time Series programs was about to blast off. The featured composer was Wolfgang Rihm, probably Germany’s most prominent contemporary composer, and the creator of Proserpina.

From his opening remarks about the music, you could tell that series director (and conductor) John Kennedy was clearly pumped about this concert. He described Rihm’s music as a kind of rebellion against post-World War II avant-garde modernism in Germany, as exemplified by composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen. He re-infused modern German music with some of the time-honored traditional techniques and building blocks of music, like (gasp!) basic diatonic triads. Perhaps Kennedy’s most telling comment along these lines was when he spoke of Rihm’s method of “translating rhythmic energy into extraordinary breadth and intensity of sound,” much as Beethoven had done. Finally, before tearing into his selections, he warned us to expect “very powerful music that will leave some of you feeling exhilarated, and others feeling like you’ve been beaten.”

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