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Anyone who considers Wolfgang Rihm to be the 10-minute egg of hard-boiled modernism, or post-modernism, should hear this. The delicate prefiguring (on oboe) of ‘All flesh is grass’, and by extension Pascal’s defiant declaration of mankind as the thinking reed in nature, is evidence of a deep and thoroughgoing humanism in this extraordinary work. The oboe occupies an important part, allowing Rihm to explore ideas about sound and language and the inevitability of death adumbrated by George Steiner in his 1989 book Real Presences. Rihm’s approach is unique, or at least novel, in creating a Requiem which is not so much a response to death and loss as a preparation for it. The Bavarian singers deliver the texts with a kind of numinous literalism, seeming to muse on every word, giving the whole an air that is part-ritual and part-symposium. A modern masterpiece, and (surely?) a definitive performance.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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