Jörg Widmann (c) Marco Borggreve

Widmann the Devil


  • Carl Maria Von Weber Concertino for clarinet and orchestra
  • Jörg Widmann Versuch über die Fuge (Dutch premiere)
  • Jörg Widmann Fantasie für Klarinette solo
  • Felix Mendelssohn Fifth symphony 'Reformation'

Then you have to have guts: at a concert, first play and/or conduct Weber's Concertino for clarinet and orchestra plus two of his own works, and then briefly Mendelssohn's monumental Fifth Symphony. The devil's advocate Jörg Widmann can and dares do it.

Wrestling with the subject matter
Yet Widmann's Versuch über die Fuge, which he conducts here in an arrangement for soprano, oboe and a chamber orchestra of strings and two bassoons, is about a struggle with the subject matter atypical of the supervirtuoso composer. 'Versuch über...'; so began titles of textbooks like Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen. A Versuch über die Fuge is another story, but the piece created in 2005 as the Fifth String Quartet is what its strange title promises.

Mendelssohn's 'Reformation' Symphony.
Widmann gropingly and searchingly defines his relationship to a technique that, at least up to and including Johann Sebastian Bach, was the touchstone for a composer's craft. And it no longer succeeds. The unapproachable contrapuntal order of the grand masters up to and including Bach remains a distant memory, or an unattainable dream. The biblical vanitas theme of the text refers to the futility of striving: Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas - all is vanity. It typifies Widmann that he then ends such a program almost ironically with the composer revered by him for whom the art of fugue is still the most normal thing in the world: Felix Mendelssohn.

Saturday 15 April 2023
The Royal Concertgebouw

Large Hall


Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
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Jörg Widmann
Conductor, Clarinet
Gloria Rehm
Hans Wolters
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