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Octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, 2 violins, viola, cello and double bass

Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)

Jörg Widmann (photo credit: Marco Borggreve)

Jörg Widmann (photo credit: Marco Borggreve)

Composer
Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)
Composition Year
2004
Work Movements
I Intrada
II Menuetto
III Lied ohne Worte
IV Intermezzo
V Finale
Artists
Dominic Dudley [double bass], Sarah McMahon [cello], Rebecca Jones [viola], Mihaela Girardi [violin], Sarah Sexton [violin], Bram Van Sambeek [bassoon], Hervé Joulain [horn], Jörg Widmann [clarinet]

Programme Note Writer:
© Fíacha O'Dubhda

Widmann's Octet is a magnificent configuration of instruments, achieving a breadth of timbre equal to an orchestra yet preserving the intimacy of a small chamber ensemble. The instruments are the same as those chosen by Schubert for his Octet and keen listeners will find many parallels between the works.

The Intrada opens with a direct quote from Schubert's Octet, Widmann making the genealogy of his composition clear. Unlike Schubert's work, which lifts us slowly into an uneasy sense of jubilation, combining the most ecstatic passages with undertones of sorrow, Widmann takes us on a slowly devastating journey, mapping many shades of pathos. Yet somehow the movement also has a harmonic luxuriousness, never indulgently atonal, or dissonant; always replete with connotations of romanticism.

The Menuetto opens with a call to the hunt on a horn filled with bravado. Its confidence is deceiving, and is rapidly subsumed in a flurry of scurrying passages, insistent and frantic like the pulse of a terrified animal. The theme of the hunt returns, albeit less confident, its swaggering confidence tainted by the violent reality of the chase. The movement concludes with the plaintive sound of the solitary clarinet fading into silence.

The third movement, the Song without Words is the pivotal point of the composition, its disparate crux threaded together from fragmentary moments of lyrical beauty. It opens with a heart wrenching passage for clarinet and violins, the skeletal and drifting melodies then slowly passed around different configurations of instruments. The ensemble is united in a series of overwhelming crescendos, before collapsing into its constituent elements, into an array of quiet and insular spaces.

A long menacing note on the Double Bass opens the Intermezzo, rising slowly like the onset of anxiety. The ensuing passages are populated by clattering pizzicato, furious glissandi, and sudden interjections, as if each instrument were jostling to find a voice. Shades of the hunt and its romantic connotations resurface briefly among the crowded sounds, only to be quickly subsumed in the morass of voices.

The Finale begins with recapitulation of the opening theme, drawing us full circle to the opening seconds of the work. It is a partial and tantalising return that ebbs and fades quickly into an abrupt false ending. If applause is withheld we are treated to a stunning silence, before the instruments climb back into noise and a gradually formed uneasy accord.

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Octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, 2 violins, viola, cello and double bass

Composer: Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)
Performance date: Tuesday 29th June 2010
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Jörg Widmann (b. 1973)
Work Title Octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, 2 violins, viola, cello and double bass
Composition Year 2004
Work Movements I Intrada
II Menuetto
III Lied ohne Worte
IV Intermezzo
V Finale
Artist(s) Dominic Dudley [double bass], Sarah McMahon [cello], Rebecca Jones [viola], Mihaela Girardi [violin], Sarah Sexton [violin], Bram Van Sambeek [bassoon], Hervé Joulain [horn], Jörg Widmann [clarinet]
Performance Date Tuesday 29th June 2010
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Stars in the Afternoon
Duration 00:26:00
Recording Engineer Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Octet
Instrumentation cl, hn, bn, 2vn, va, vc, db
Programme Note Writer © Fíacha O'Dubhda

Widmann's Octet is a magnificent configuration of instruments, achieving a breadth of timbre equal to an orchestra yet preserving the intimacy of a small chamber ensemble. The instruments are the same as those chosen by Schubert for his Octet and keen listeners will find many parallels between the works.

The Intrada opens with a direct quote from Schubert's Octet, Widmann making the genealogy of his composition clear. Unlike Schubert's work, which lifts us slowly into an uneasy sense of jubilation, combining the most ecstatic passages with undertones of sorrow, Widmann takes us on a slowly devastating journey, mapping many shades of pathos. Yet somehow the movement also has a harmonic luxuriousness, never indulgently atonal, or dissonant; always replete with connotations of romanticism.

The Menuetto opens with a call to the hunt on a horn filled with bravado. Its confidence is deceiving, and is rapidly subsumed in a flurry of scurrying passages, insistent and frantic like the pulse of a terrified animal. The theme of the hunt returns, albeit less confident, its swaggering confidence tainted by the violent reality of the chase. The movement concludes with the plaintive sound of the solitary clarinet fading into silence.

The third movement, the Song without Words is the pivotal point of the composition, its disparate crux threaded together from fragmentary moments of lyrical beauty. It opens with a heart wrenching passage for clarinet and violins, the skeletal and drifting melodies then slowly passed around different configurations of instruments. The ensemble is united in a series of overwhelming crescendos, before collapsing into its constituent elements, into an array of quiet and insular spaces.

A long menacing note on the Double Bass opens the Intermezzo, rising slowly like the onset of anxiety. The ensuing passages are populated by clattering pizzicato, furious glissandi, and sudden interjections, as if each instrument were jostling to find a voice. Shades of the hunt and its romantic connotations resurface briefly among the crowded sounds, only to be quickly subsumed in the morass of voices.

The Finale begins with recapitulation of the opening theme, drawing us full circle to the opening seconds of the work. It is a partial and tantalising return that ebbs and fades quickly into an abrupt false ending. If applause is withheld we are treated to a stunning silence, before the instruments climb back into noise and a gradually formed uneasy accord.