Jörg Widmann has pursued this calling on two fronts, as one of the most interesting composers of his generation and as a clarinet virtuoso. And although as a composer he works with a modernist palette, his works are often firmly anchored in tradition.
Tradition manifests itself in the ‘music from music’ principle applied in Widmann’s Octet (2004). Its scoring alone links it to the chain of its predecessors, being deliberately the same as in Schubert’s Octet (1824): clarinet, horn, bassoon and string quintet. Schubert, as we know, modelled his Octet on Beethoven’s celebrated Septet (1800), only adding a second violin. Widmann’s five-movement structure also continues in the vein of Beethoven’s and Schubert’s works, more akin to a divertimento than a symphony. The musical content, however, is a sort of deconstruction of the conventional gestures of the Classical-Romantic musical idiom.
In ‘Intrada’, traditional-sounding textures present with increasing harmonic ruptures until the musicians seem to diverge onto entirely different paths. The brief ‘Minuet’ is more like a scherzo than a dance. ‘Lied ohne Worte’ begins as a fragile and introvert tune distorted with microintervals. After a brief culmination, the music becomes increasingly fragmented and finally crumbles away. A brief ‘Intermezzo’, where a folkish tune lurks behind tattered motifs, leads into the ‘Finale’ without a break. This, too, is unconventional – not a fast concluding movement but a slow and decomposing anti-finale.
Shortened from Kimmo Korhonen's work presentation
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi