I have been sheepish for a while about my ignorance of the music of Wolfgang Rihm. Last weekend's 'Total Immersion' festival was the perfect opportunity to put it right. But I couldn't go. So I am having to rely instead on the coverage on Hear and Now - three consecutive weeks of programmes - to Rihmmerse myself as best I can.
Rihm's sheer fecundity makes him slightly forbidding: where to start with a catalogue of over 400 pieces? The first Hear and Now started with the gripping and startling Schwarzer und roter Tanz for orchestra and the eccentric film-music - or music-with-film - Bild (eine Chiffre).
The 2006 cello concerto Konzert in einem Satz was given an impassioned and persuasive reading by Stephen Isserlis. More referential than Bild, more expressively wide-ranging than Schwarzer und rooter Tanz, this is a fine piece.
The programme's finale was the immense Concerto 'Séraphin', another UK premiere. It is a complex and rebarbative work which, in this version, explores the soloistic skills of the London Sinfonietta over the course of 55 minutes. Admirably played though it was, Concerto 'Séraphin' is a challenging and not immediately rewarding listen.
The programme was presented by the quick-witted Tom Service and the composer Julian Anderson, whose contributions were both erudite and coloured by a clear personal enthusiasm for Rihm's music. His delivery and manner are redolent of an old-fashioned, didactic, Radio 3 style - which I don't mean as a criticism. It was complemented well by Tom Service's fresher style. At times, such as around 1'08" when discussing the best way to listen to the music they got into old-style 'music appreciation' territory, and it was slightly embarrassing.
But I am looking forward to the remaining episodes; even if I suspect that Rihm will not emerge as a favourite composer, he is certainly important and worth hearing.