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Etudes I - III for solo violin

Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)

Composer
Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)
Composition Year
1995-2002
Artists
Pekka Kuusisto [violin]

Programme Note Writer:
© Fíacha O'Dubhda

Widmann's Etudes for solo violin are composed without key or time signature, like fleeting mutterings against a backdrop of silence. Each one glides thematically into the next, throwing into question the very boundaries of the composition and our divisions of time.

The first Etude was composed in 1995 while Widmann studied clarinet at the Julliard School of Music in New York and is dedicated to Peter Sheppard. They worked on it together by fax and phone, sending signals down wires until the piece was ready. It opens with a dynamic lattice of harmonic whispers and insinuations, leading into a siren-like drone passage based on micro-tonal fluctuations, caused by de-tuning and re-tuning the A and D strings. Bursts of menacing glissando, tremolo and harsh pizzicato attacks populate the following bars, weaving a tapestry of suspense. The Etude ends with a drone harmonized by the violinist humming a long frail note. As Jörg has described it in a letter to Peter; This music is silence with some 'events' in it, very intense, calm, lonely, harsh and brutal at the same time: 'Standing vertically on the motion of human hearts'.

The second Etude was composed in 2001 and dedicated to Isabelle Faust. It begins where the first ends, opening with a plaintive theme punctuated by the violinists voice. The playing slowly gathers momentum, racing towards increasing complexity and violence. The disembodied voice occasionally returns, taking the listener by surprise, adding a touch of humanity to the latices of fierce and alienating phrases.

The third Etude was composed in 2002, inspired by Jörg's sister Caroline Widmann rehearsing Eugène Ysaÿe's Solo Violin Sonatas, and is dedicated to her. The seams between the second and the third are almost inaudible, the muted rustling tremolo of the second pausing for no more than a breath before gaining momentum at the start of the third. The opening direction reads Frantic agitation, as fast as possibleand that is exactly what we get. A slowly ascending scurry of notes increases in clarity, the phrases expanding alongside the distances between the notes, until the lowest and highest pitches of the violin are tied together in breathtaking phrases; the extremities of the instrument touched almost simultaneously. The muted and murky depths of the instrument are forever present and contrasted with the crystalline and piercing clarity of the highest notes. The Etude dwindles into tentative pizzicato, fading gradually and introspectively into silence.

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Etudes I - III for solo violin

Composer: Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)
Performance date: Saturday 3rd July 2010
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)
Work Title Etudes I - III for solo violin
Composition Year 1995-2002
Artist(s) Pekka Kuusisto [violin]
Performance Date Saturday 3rd July 2010
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Finale
Duration 00:10:13
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Solo
Instrumentation vn
Programme Note Writer © Fíacha O'Dubhda

Widmann's Etudes for solo violin are composed without key or time signature, like fleeting mutterings against a backdrop of silence. Each one glides thematically into the next, throwing into question the very boundaries of the composition and our divisions of time.

The first Etude was composed in 1995 while Widmann studied clarinet at the Julliard School of Music in New York and is dedicated to Peter Sheppard. They worked on it together by fax and phone, sending signals down wires until the piece was ready. It opens with a dynamic lattice of harmonic whispers and insinuations, leading into a siren-like drone passage based on micro-tonal fluctuations, caused by de-tuning and re-tuning the A and D strings. Bursts of menacing glissando, tremolo and harsh pizzicato attacks populate the following bars, weaving a tapestry of suspense. The Etude ends with a drone harmonized by the violinist humming a long frail note. As Jörg has described it in a letter to Peter; This music is silence with some 'events' in it, very intense, calm, lonely, harsh and brutal at the same time: 'Standing vertically on the motion of human hearts'.

The second Etude was composed in 2001 and dedicated to Isabelle Faust. It begins where the first ends, opening with a plaintive theme punctuated by the violinists voice. The playing slowly gathers momentum, racing towards increasing complexity and violence. The disembodied voice occasionally returns, taking the listener by surprise, adding a touch of humanity to the latices of fierce and alienating phrases.

The third Etude was composed in 2002, inspired by Jörg's sister Caroline Widmann rehearsing Eugène Ysaÿe's Solo Violin Sonatas, and is dedicated to her. The seams between the second and the third are almost inaudible, the muted rustling tremolo of the second pausing for no more than a breath before gaining momentum at the start of the third. The opening direction reads Frantic agitation, as fast as possibleand that is exactly what we get. A slowly ascending scurry of notes increases in clarity, the phrases expanding alongside the distances between the notes, until the lowest and highest pitches of the violin are tied together in breathtaking phrases; the extremities of the instrument touched almost simultaneously. The muted and murky depths of the instrument are forever present and contrasted with the crystalline and piercing clarity of the highest notes. The Etude dwindles into tentative pizzicato, fading gradually and introspectively into silence.