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Cello Concerto
Cello Concerto
Jan Vogler (cello)
Munchener Kammerorchester/Christoph Poppen
Rec: Munich 7/2000; Aschau 2/2000
BERLIN CLASSICS 0017142 [65.35]

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A unique CD, my chief criterion for a place in my collection! Widmann (b. Munich, 1973) lays his young heart bare in describing the year-long working - 'its own bulky form wrung out of me' - for his concerto's premiere at the Expo 2000, a soul-wrenching personal odyssey (his word, and as apt as the title of Nicholas Maw's great single movement symphony).

There are some British connections. Widmann is a distinguished German clarinettist, who will be bringing a work written for him by Wolfgang Rihm to London this season in a concert with the RPO. Vogler will be touring Ireland with the Vogler String Quartet.

Widmann 's Dunkle Saiten (Dark Strings) is a 44 minute journey through the conflicting emotions which can tear apart a sensitive young man, and a map of some of the musical worlds in which a young composer of today has to find his way. The cello solo dominates 'until it gives up exhausted after about half an hour'. It all begins in the darker depths, the idiom undisturbing and reminding one of Bloch, Tavener and other masters of the singing cello. There is a central 'plunge into Hell' in which the three percussionists of the otherwise moderate sized orchestra come into their own. The disintegration leads to expressionist music and involvement of two wordless soprano voices, in music which brings to mind the grotesqueries of Ligeti's Grande Macabre. The cello has the last word, ascending into the stratosphere.

An odyssey indeed, and one worth sharing. Works for Donaueschingen and the WDRSO, and an opera for Munich, are under way, and Jörg Widmann is a composer whose progress will be one to watch.

The account of the Schumann cello concerto is fully competitive and the recording and production of the CD impeccable; Widmann provides his own notes to his Dark Strings and an Aphorism to Schumann's Cello Concerto which throw light upon this brave coupling. The CD deserves wide attention.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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