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New Music Concerts Robert Aitken, artistic director

A Portrait of Jorg Widmann


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Friday April 18, 2014 @ Betty Oliphant Theatre
Jörg Widmann
clarinet | New Music Concerts Ensemble | Robert Aitken direction
Introduction 7:15 | Concert 8:00
Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis Street [MAP]

Music by Jörg Widmann:

Freie Stücke (2002) 2fl, ob, 2cl, bsn, hn, tpt, trb, 2pc, 2vn, va, vc, cb

Étude No.4 (2006) solo violin

Nachtstücke (1998) cl, vc, pf

Liebeslied (2010) fl, ob, cl, pc, pf, vn, va, vc

Air (2005) for solo horn

Dubairische Tanze (2009) fl, ob, 2cl, bn, hn, 2 tp, tba, 2pc, 2vn, va, 2vc, cb


Jörg Widmann was born in Munich on 19 June 1973. He studied the clarinet at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich with Gerd Starke and later with Charles Neidich at the Juilliard School in New York (1994-1995). He additionally began to take composition lessons with Kay Westermann at the age of eleven and subsequently continued his studies with Wilfried Hiller and Hans Werner Henze (1994-1996) and later Heiner Goebbels and Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe (1997-1999). Widmann’s great passion as a clarinettist is chamber music and he regularly performs with partners such as Tabea Zimmermann, Heinz Holliger, András Schiff, Kim Kashkashian, and Hélène Grimaud. He has also achieved great success as a soloist in orchestral concerts in Germany and abroad. Several works have been dedicated to Widmann by fellow composers: in 1999, he performed the premiere of Music for Clarinet and Orchestra by Wolfgang Rihm in the musica viva concert series; in 2006, he performed Cantus by Aribert Reimann with the WDR symphony orchestra, and in 2009, at the Lucerne Festival, the world premiere of Rechant by Heinz Holliger. In 2001, Jörg Widmann was appointed as the successor to Dieter Klöcker as professor of clarinet at the Freiburg Staatliche Hochschule für Musik where he also took up the post of professor of composition in 2009. He was composer-in-residence of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Salzburg Festival, the Lucerne Festival, the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vienna Konzerthaus.

Jörg Widmann has received numerous prizes for his compositions: the Belmont Prize for Contemporary Music from the Forberg- Schneider Foundation (1998), the Schneider-Schott Music Prize, the Paul Hindemith Prize (both in 2002), the Encouragement Award from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, the Achievement Award from the Munich Opera Festival (both in 2003) as well as the Arnold Schönberg Prize (2004). In 2006, Widmann received the Composition Prize from the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg as well as the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize from the Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2009, he received the Elise L. Stoeger Prize of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, New York and in 2013, he was awarded the Music Award of the

Heidelberger Frühling and the GEMA German Music Authors Award. He is a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin and a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, the Free Academy of the Arts in Hamburg and the German Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was composer-in-residence of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Salzburg Festival, the Lucerne Festival, the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vienna Konzerthaus.

Jörg Widmann has composed a trilogy for large orchestra based on the principle of transferring vocal forms to orchestral writing. The trilogy consists of Lied (premiered in 2003 and recorded by Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and Jonathan Nott), Chor (premiered in 2004 by DSO Berlin and Kent Nagano) and Messe premiered by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Christian Thielemann in June 2005. In 2007 Pierre Boulez and the Vienna Philharmonic premiered Widmann’s orchestral work Armonica; Christian Tetzlaff and the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie premiered his Violin Concerto. 2008 saw the premieres of Antiphon with Paavo Järvi conducting Frankfurt Radio and of the piano cycle Eleven Humoresques, commissioned by Carnegie Hall New York for Yefim Bronfman, followed by the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio and Mariss Jansons premiering Con brio. In March and April 2008 Widmann lived and worked in Dubai. This project was supported by the Siemens Arts Program and the Goethe Institute led to the world premiere of Widmann’s Dubairische Tänze in Berlin in May 2009. The Cleveland Orchestra under their Music Director Franz Welser-Möst premiered Widmann's flute concerto, Flûte en suite, in May 2011, followed by the European premiere by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle with soloist Emmanuel Pahud. String Quartets such as the Artemis, the Vogler, the Pacifica and the Minguet Quartets regularly perform his works.

Three music-theatre projects prove Widmann to be an outstanding composer for the stage: the opera Das Gesicht im Spiegel was chosen by the German magazine Opernwelt as the most significant first performance of the season 2003/04. Am Anfang (2009) is the result of a unique kind of collaboration between a visual artist and a composer; Widmann created the work together with Anselm Kiefer and conducted the world premiere on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Opéra Bastille in Paris. The most recent stage work Babylon (2011/12) is a commission by the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich. Jörg Widmann and philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in his first venture as librettist present a new interpretation of the Babylon myth in this musical-dramatic Gesamtkunstwerk.

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Liebeslied (2010)
The ensemble piece ...umdüstert... was composed around the same time as my cello concerto Dunkle Saiten. It is based on a comment on the subject of beauty made by Baudelaire towards the end of his life, “on one of the most interesting objects which human society has to offer,” the face of a woman, which is at its most fascinating and attractive “when darkened by melancholy.” Ten years later, I am now working in a similar manner on a new pair of compositions: on the subject of love. A poet’s phrase, in this case the fragment of a poem by Schiller, provided the basis for my orchestral work Teufel Amor. The chamber music counterpart for this work is this purely instrumental love song free of any verbal associations. The composition deals in compressed form with the same subject matter as in Teufel Amor: the character of love as both paradise and a pit of snakes in the manner of a Janus face.
— Jörg Widmann

Fantasie (2005)

Fantasie for solo clarinet is my first real piece for my own instrument, the clarinet. With its eccentric virtuosity and its cheerful, ironic fundamental character, it reflects the experience with Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet of 1919 and the tonal innovations which did not appear in music before Carl Maria von Weber’s clarinet concertos and takes them further in a new way. It is a little imaginary scene uniting the dialogues of different people in close proximity in the spirit of the commedia dell’arte. — Jörg Widmann

Freie Stücke (2002)

Following on several works for larger-scale forces focused on the mastering of a large-scale structure and musical flow, these pieces take their inspiration from the desire for concentration and reduction. The ten movements all display a high degree of disparity in all possible aspects. Each piece concentrates on a particular tonal phenomenon (pulse, shaky foundations, noise, monophony, structures with harmonics etc.), but all sections still remain interlocked. The ending (or its reflection) of each piece forms the initial point of the subsequent movement, thereby transforming disparate elements into a single narrative. Despite the brevity or reduction on the horizontal plane, the vertical plane of these pieces has become quite substantial by my standards: this is my first real ensemble work (for 9 wind players, 5 string players and 2 percussionists). — Jörg Widmann

Fünf Bruchstücke (Five Fragments) (1997)

After composing several pieces that dealt with the ebb and flow of coping with large-scale forms, in 1997 the idea of fragments began to fascinate me: reduction, implosion, concentration. My cherished instruments of clarinet and piano had become strangely unfamiliar to me; composing this work cast a new light on them. — Jörg Widmann

Air (2005)

The horn piece Air requires a highly virtuosic technique, as indeed it should since it was composed in 2005 as the compulsory piece for the 54th International Music Competition of the ARD. At the same time, however, it is completely oriented towards a simple vocal air – “air” in its literal meaning and in its handed-down meaning of “melody”. The sound material consists of various natural harmonic rows some of which are intersecting. This microtonal cosmos and the constant change of open and stopped playing create an exciting piece of nature on closeness and distance. — Jörg Widmann

Dubairische Tänze (2009)

I. Zweifacher II. Valse mécanique III. Wiegenlied IV. Jeux d’eaux (improvisation for two percussionists) V. Valse bavaroise VI. Schlaflied VII. Landler VIII. Vier Strophen IX. Marsch

Dubai was the envisaged destination of Jörg Widmann when he was sent to the desert as part of the Siemens Arts Program. The intention was to gather inspiration for a new composition in the cosmopolitan city on the Persian Gulf, but his Dubairischen Tänze sound far closer to his native Bavaria than the Middle East: Bavarian Ländler, Zwiefache and a substantial collection of other wittily alienated dances form a highly unorthodox, contemporary yet entertaining piece. Widmann writes about his composition:

My one month stay in Dubai raised the question in me: where I actually come from – even with regard to music. Just like it is natural to want to go to foreign parts of the world when at home, it is perhaps necessary to travel abroad in order to discover the familiar. My answer to that – be it consequence, substratum or counterquestion – is Dubairische Tänze. — Jörg Widmann