Huelgas Ensemble | Minguet Quartett
In Wolfgang Rihm’s Et Lux, composed in 2009, the vocal and instrumental components meet on equal terms, a four-part vocal ensemble and a string quartet. “I was much attracted to the idea of bringing these two musical realms together,” the composer has said in an interview. Associations with medieval motets, Renaissance vocal polyphony, sacred madrigals and the great string quartet tradition from the Classical period to the present day – all resonate in this work. The scoring of Et Lux is charged with historical significance, while the text for the vocal layer consists of fragments from the Roman Requiem: “They are not, however, heard ‘intact’ and not in the correct liturgical order,” says Rihm. “They appear more as components reminiscent of a progressively realized whole. Great significance is displayed by the reappearance of specific groups of words – for example, in the middle of the work: ‘…et lux perpetua luceat…’. Through circling reflection the comforting yet deeply disturbing meaning of these words might just become perceptible.” In other words, this is a meditation on and exploration of individual moments in the Requiem text by the composer who in his youth sang in the Karlsruhe Oratorio Choir. The idea of the “eternal light” that shines upon the dead, which gives Et Lux its title, is a symbol of hope in the Requiem liturgy. But it is also ambivalent, when considered with the extreme logical consistency that is typical of Wolfgang Rihm: a dark, threatening light that shines forever, something inconceivable, as the composer has remarked. The music of Et Lux at times recalls the tranquil flow that we know from the vocal polyphony of the Renaissance, but with contours sharpened, structures roughened and breaks in the flow: a 21st-century piece with an awareness of long tradition, the accord reached between a pair of monochrome ensembles, purified, concentrated and powerfully illuminated.