Wolfgang Rihm: I’m composing with cancer

Wolfgang Rihm: I’m composing with cancer


norman lebrecht

January 28, 2020

The prolific German composer, who is 67, is unhappy about a new SWR documentary that makes him out to be a bit of a misery.

‘The director cut out everything that is somehow cheerful,’ says Rihm in a rare interview. 

He goes on to say that he has been living with cancer for 22 years, undergoing surgery and other treatments for the past three.

He adds: ‘Like everyone else, I’m physically approaching the end, but I’m not finished with my creative energy…. “I have created a huge oeuvre that is currently multiplying again..

We wish him well.




  • Best wishes for his future health but I am surprised that he is such a successful composer that documentaries are made of him. It must be a European thing.

    I recall his Trio Concerto premiered by the Dallas Symphony several years ago under Jaap van Zweden.

    “Staggeringly pointless” was my reaction at the time…


    • Esther Cavett says:

      ==“Staggeringly pointless” was my reaction at the time…

      “Staggeringly useless” was my reaction to your review on facebook. My, how life was easier when there wasn’t so much nonsense out there.

      Anyway, all best to Mr Rihm

    • anon says:

      Something about your keen intellect is revealed by the remarkable insights of your opening observation: “The violin soloist looked like Matthew (Ferris Bueller) Broderick, the cello soloist looked like Robert (The Man from UNCLE) Vaughn and the piano soloist looked like Mikhail (former Soviet President) Gorbachev.”

  • John Borstlap says:

    Here is Rihm’s “Das Gehege”:


    I think it is a very good piece of expressionism, it sounds as if being written by Schoenberg’s brother.

    Sometimes he exposes his own form of neurotic pleasure:


    One wonders for which kind of people these ‘Jagden und Formen’ might be.

    His ‘Lichtes Spiel’ (a violin concerto) has much beauty in it, looking back to the olden days with a pained nostalgia:


    It’s an extraordinary work with highly differentiated harmony, like floating between dream and reality.

    Rihm’s courage has been to try to be ‘expressive’ in postwar Germany. The only way in which he could get away with such daring unconventionality, is German expressionism and morbidity from the early 20th century, and he could only do that after he had first established himself as a postwar modernist: