Clarinetist, composer, and conductor Jörg Widmann is one of the most versatile and intriguing artists of his generation. As Carnegie Hall’s 2019/20 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer Chair his work was the season’s focus. Future performances see him appear in all facets of his work. He appears as soloist with orchestras such as New World Symphony Orchestra and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and is artist in residence at WDR Sinfonieorchester and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Chamber music performances will see him in concerts with long-standing chamber music partners such as Daniel Barenboim, Denis Kozhukhin, the Quiroga and the Hagen Quartet at Philharmonie Essen, Dresdner Musikfestspiele, Pierre Boulez Saal Berlin, Grand Interpretes Toulouse and Wiener Konzerthaus amongst others.
Continuing his intense activities as a conductor, Jörg Widmann performs this season with the National Symphony Orchestra Taiwan, Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, as Visiting Composer with Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France.
Widmann studied clarinet with Gerd Starke in Munich and Charles Neidich at the Juilliard School in New York. He performs regularly with renowned orchestras, such as Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Orchestra National de France, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, National Symphony Orchestra Washington, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He collaborates with conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, and Christoph von Dohnányi.
Widmann gave the world premiere of Mark Andre’s Clarinet Concerto über at the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2015. Other clarinet concerti dedicated to and written for him include Wolfgang Rihm’s Musik für Klarinette und Orchester (1999) and Aribert Reimann’s Cantus (2006).
Widmann studied composition with Kay Westermann, Wilfried Hiller and Wolfgang Rihm. His works continue to receive many awards such as the prestigious Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Elise L. Stoeger Prize (2009), the Paul Hindemith Prize in 2001, the Arnold Schönberg Prize by the Vienna Arnold Schönberg Centre and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (2004) and both the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg’s composition award and the Berliner Philharmoniker Academy’s Claudio Abbado Composition Award in 2006.
Widmann’s compositions are performed regularly by conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Daniel Harding, Valery Gergiev, Kent Nagano, Christian Thielemann, Mariss Jansons, Andris Nelsons and Simon Rattle and premiered by orchestras such as the Wiener and Berliner Philharmoniker, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, BBC Symphony Orchestra, and many others. This season sees the world premiere of Jörg Widmann’s new trumpet concerto, commissioned by Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Boston Symphony Orchestra for Håkan Hardenberger and conducted by Andris Nelsons.
Widmann’s appointment as Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow at the Cleveland Orchestra established an extraordinary artistic collaboration with the orchestra and its Principal Conductor Franz Welser-Möst including the world premiere of Widmann’s Flute Concerto, Flûte en suite in May 2011followed by its European premiere in 2012/13 by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Emmanuel Pahud under Simon Rattle. Cleveland Orchestra featured Flûte en suite as centrepiece in their 2014 European tour, and dedicated an entire evening to Widmann’s works at the Berliner Philharmonie. His opera Babylon was premiered in 2012/13 at Bayerische Staatsoper under the baton of Kent Nagano.
Am Anfang by Anselm Kiefer and Jörg Widmann was premiered in July 2009 as part of the 20th anniversary of the Opéra Bastille, in which Widmann acted as composer, clarinetist and made his debut as conductor.
Widmann was Artist in Residence at leading Festivals and Orchestras such as Lucerne Festival and Salzburger Festspiele, Bamberger Symphoniker, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich’s creative chair 2015/16, and both BOZAR and Elbphilarmonie’s artist in residence in its opening season. He was featured in Artist Portraits at Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Frankfurt’s Alte Oper and Cologne’s Philharmonie. In the 2017/18 season he was featured as the first ever Gewandhaus Composer in Leipzig’s history.
Widmann is Fellow at the Wissenschaftskollegs in Berlin and a full member of the Bayerischen Akademie of Schönen Künste, and since 2007, the Freien Akademie der Künste Hamburg, the Deutschen Akademie der Darstellenden Künste and the Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur Mainz. He is professor for composition at the Barenboim-Said Academy, Berlin.
“But what makes him so irresistible as a composer and performer alike is the hefty dose of sheer joy in what he does: the pleasure of vital, visceral musicality that promises to bind together classical music of the past and present – and forge a way into the future.”
(The Guardian, January 2018)
“He’s a smiling, buoyant presence on stage, responding to each section of the orchestra in turn, locking eyes as well as semiquavers with the strings, and moulding melodies and passagework alike with a lithe, transparent tone. This was one of the least indulgent Mozart clarinet concertos I’ve heard, and its special grace lay in the unforced way Widmann, Gražinytė-Tyla and the orchestra played off each other.”
(The Arts Desk, October 2017)
“Widmann had a weight of expression with a lightness of manner while playing Brahms, Berg, and Schumann that was captivating, exciting the mind and touching the heart. The Berg and Schumann pieces share qualities of each composer’s vocal music; Berg’s Op. 5 seemed a twin in color and expressive quality to his Sieben frühe Lieder, and the Fantasiestücke echoed the likes of Dichterliebe. Widmann’s clarinet sang like a great vocalist.”
(New York Classical Review, April 2017)
“Jörg Widmann’s five string quartets make up a kind of meta quartet – a massive web of musical dialectics that celebrate, explode and generally redefine the genre’s lofty, loaded heritage. No other contemporary composer has grappled with quartet form quite so intelligently or so probingly. It’s astoundingly virtuosic stuff, mentally and musically, and jaw-droppingly beautiful at times: just listen to the gossamer-fine and haunting textures of the fourth quartet, or the stark violence that ends the third.”
(The Guardian, July 2015)
“Tuesday’s performance featured Germany’s lively and engaging Jörg Widmann, a welcome presence whether as composer, clarinettist or conductor…Throughout he displayed masterfully fluid tone control over every register, from the highest cloud-covered peak to the lowest velvet burblings.”