The CSO concerts this week have an interesting programming idea from conductor Kent Nagano. Rihm’s Das Lesen der Schrift was apparently commissioned by Nagano as a sort of companion piece to the Brahms requiem. In fact the four movements of Das Lesen are meant to be played after movements 2,3,5, and 6 of the requiem.
The idea, as described by Nagano, was to provide an opportunity for listeners to reflect on the masterpiece during the new interludes because through repetition the Brahms had become ordinary, lost some of its impact, or has become taken for granted. Those are my paraphrases of his explanations.
Combining a beloved piece like the requiem with something modern provoked the expected firestorm of protest and condemnation from the players. I feel a bit sorry for Nagano. He is very earnest about his ideas which are being almost universally reviled. If not for the Rihm, I think the orchestra’s opinion of him would be quite favorable, based on his fine job on the requiem.
As a modern music supporter I am enjoying the Rihm, although I’m not convinced the Brahms benefits from its presence. Anyhow, this is a new take on the shit sandwich. (see the post of 2/11/07 for a discussion of the s.s. http://csobassblog.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html) Maybe we can call it the shit club sandwich, although it is more like grinding up a pill and stirring it into your dog’s food so he’ll swallow it without realizing.