Jörg Widmann (c) Marco Borggreve

Widmann and Late Romanticism


Jörg Widmann Trauermarsch
Gustav Mahler First Symphony 'Titan

Trauermarsch - Jörg Widmann's title alone reminds one of Gustav Mahler. But with him, things are not always what they seem.

Hannes Minnaar plays Widmann's moving funeral march

In 2014 Jörg Widmann wrote Trauermarsch for piano and orchestra. It originated as an industrial accident. What should have been a four-movement piano concerto for Yefim Bronfman and the Berliner Philharmoniker became a one-movement piece based on the introduction, which also for Widmann unexpectedly developed into a colossal funeral march based on the descending second that as a mourning motif sometimes explicitly and sometimes hiddenly dominates the entire piece. When you think of a funeral march, you think of Beethoven and Mahler - but perhaps not of the almost defenceless intimacy and sometimes moving tenderness of the solo part in this piece.

Ambiguity in Widmann and Mahler

Here too it is clear that one should never take Widmann's titles at their word. Above the piano part in the first bar, a few bars before the orchestra starts off 'solemnly and sternly', it says: 'Laconic, somewhat hesitant'. In this way Widmann immediately creates the ambiguity that characterises Trauermarsch; a dialectical play of light and dark, vital and broken. Just as ironic as the funeral march in Mahler's First Symphony, which, with its Father James canon and its intimate, lyrical-melancholic atmosphere, fits perfectly into Widmann's masterpiece.

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