Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952) is a composer, professor of composition at the Music Academy of Karlsruhe (where his students included Vykintas Baltakas and Jörg Widmann), a remarkable writer on music. He also sits on a number of influential committees in Germany and has a say in decisions affecting the working conditions of his fellow musicians. His knowledge of music (the art and craft of composition as well as of music history from ancient times up to the present day) is vast. But he also seems to know everything worth knowing about literature, painting, architecture, philosophy and he freely draws on those as sources of inspiration.
The world he has created with his compositions which now outnumber 400 works is a veritable universe. Soloists, chamber groups and orchestras programme these works as a matter of course now, they have become an integral part of the repertoire. Wolfgang Rihm is one of the foremost song composers of our times; his string quartets are often presented in cycles by a wide range of groups. Rihm is a composer who puts a giant question-mark over whatever he is doing. Each new work is an answer to the question raised by the previous piece; each new work poses questions which he will seek a reply to in the composition to be written next. There come about work cycles, work families which form a web with other cycles and individual pieces.