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Wolfgang Rihm: Die Eroberung von Mexico CD

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Disc: 1
1. The Conquest of Mexico: Omens: Beginn. Melodie einer Landschaft, die das Gewitter kommen spurt
2. The Conquest of Mexico: Omens: 'Schatten von Wildpferden' (Montezuma)
3. The Conquest of Mexico: Omens: 'Schatten Meteore Blitz' (Cortez)
4. The Conquest of Mexico: Omens: 'Der Krieg, den ich fuhren will' (Montezuma)
5. The Conquest of Mexico: Omens: Raiz del hombre - 1. Strophe
6. The Conquest of Mexico: Declaration: Beginn
7. The Conquest of Mexico: Declaration: 'Ich ahme einen Krieger nach' (Cortez)
8. The Conquest of Mexico: Declaration: 'Seraphim? Neutral? Weiblich?' (Cortez)
9. The Conquest of Mexico: Declaration: Montezuma und Cortez stehen einander gegenuber
10. The Conquest of Mexico: Declaration: 'Wir sind eure Wohltater!' (Cortez)
See all 13 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. The Conquest of Mexico: 'Revolte, Revolte in allen Schichten'
2. The Conquest of Mexico: '...und dies wird dicht an einem grossen Schrei sein'
3. The Conquest of Mexico: 'Ich zerschneide den eigentlichen Raum'
4. The Conquest of Mexico: Stilles Ritual der Azteken. Tierkreis.
5. The Conquest of Mexico: Spanische Soldaten uberfallen die Azteken. Ein Blutbad.
6. The Conquest of Mexico: Montezumas Ansprache
7. The Conquest of Mexico: Raiz del hombre - 3. Strophe
8. The Conquest of Mexico: 'Lichter, Tone'
9. The Conquest of Mexico: Montezumas Leichenbegangnis
10. The Conquest of Mexico: Zerstorung der religiosen Bildwerke (der Azteken und Spanier)
See all 12 tracks on this disc

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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Lame libretto, music that by Rihm standards is rather average 2 Mar. 2010
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
This CPO release features Wolfgang Rihm's opera DIE EROBERUNG VON MEXICO (The Conquest of Mexico) over two discs. Ingo Metzmacher leads the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg and the Chor der Hamburgischen Staatsopeer. Rihm wrote the opera between 1987 and 1991, finishing it in time for the 500th anniversary of Columbus' journey, which set off a great deal of discussion of the fate of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

The basis of Rihm's opera is a stage piece by Antonin Artaud that depicts the meeting of Cortez and Montezuma as an encounter between male and female principles and their mutual ruin. In Artaud's depiction, it is Cortez's soldiers who are slaughtered like flies, with the gender archetypes standing alone among the devastation as the opera closes. An Octavio Paz poem and three Mexican folk songs also find their way into the libretto.

The music of the opera is generally Rihm's characteristic emotionally charged expressionism similar to early Schoenberg, with a real invention in orchestration. At moments, however, we find the remarkable style that Rihm pursued at in these particular years, surely influenced by the late pieces of Luigi Nono, where long low-dynamic lines are suddenly interrupted by banging dissonances and spatialization plays a role. In terms of the union of music and the stage action, Rihm sometimes excels -- witness the remarkable polystylism of the duet between Cortez and Montezuma in the second act. However, the beginning of the opera irks me; could Rihm not find any less hackneyed way of representing pre-contact indigenous tribes than pounding drums and grunting?

I don't really buy the libretto, and the music is, though often fine, not Rihm's best. Also, it feels like quite a bit is lost in reducing the opera to an audio recording without the visual element. One of the key roles, Malinche the translator, is performed by a dancer and thus is essentially absent here. I would therefore recommend this recording only to fans of Wolfgang Rihm who want to explore the whole breadth of his output.
8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Rihm's failed opera, a strange version of the Spanish conquest 20 Dec. 2004
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
DIE EROBERUNG VON MEXICO (THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO) is an ambitious attempt to stage Artaud's drama as an opera. The concept is questionable -- Artaud takes the historic narrative of Montezuma and Cortez and overlays it with a metaphysical confrontation between male and female, treated as mutually incomprehensible opposites doomed to a tragic denouement. Rihm adds an Octavio Paz text and tragic 16th century poetry by an anonymous indigenous Mexican writer to create an even more unwieldy edifice. Rihm's opera was first staged in 1992 to coincide with the 500-year anniversary of Colombus's voyage and the Spanish conquest. Artaud's twist, which Rihm follows, is to portray not a conquest but the mutual ruin of the antagonists, a metaphysical view with no basis in material history.

Given the powerful elements of the drama, Rihm's music is strangely subdued, even enervating. The lead roles of Cortez and Montezuma are given periodically moving passages (Montezuma's role is sung by a soprano and an alto, as he embodies the female principle), culminating in the work's best moment at the very end as they sing a tragic duet, but the orchestral accompaniment is uniformly uninvolving.

Fortunately, for an open-eared listener interested in Rihm, there are many better works, including his earlier opera DIE HAMLETMASCHINE (see my review), based on the radical Heiner Muller play, recorded live at its 1987 premiere.

Since hearing this less than impressive opera, I have heard much more by Rihm (b. 1952), and I am now convinced that he is one of the best contemporary composers.

See my RIHM: A LISTENER'S GUIDE list for more recommendations and reviews.
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