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JÖRG WIDMANN: ARCHE / ECM New Series 2605/06

Marlis Petersen: soprano; Thomas E. Bauer: baritone; Gabriel Böer: boy soprano; Antonius Hentschel, Jonna Plate: narrators; Iveta Apkalna: organ

Chor der Hamburgischen Staatsoper, Audi Jugendchorakademie, Hamburger Alsterspatzen, Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg

Kent Nagano conductor

Commissioned by the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg to write new music to inaugurate the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, composer Jörg Widmann drew inspiration from the shape of the building itself: “From the outside it resembles a ship. To me, the interior looked like the hold of a ship, an ark…Re-emerging into the daylight, the ark idea would not leave me alone. The inflection of the music I had to compose was clear….” Arche, an Oratorio for soloists, choirs, organ and orchestra is a compendious work embracing the course of history in the west with a collaged libretto drawing upon a range of writers: from the unknown authors of the Old Testament to Nietzsche and Sloterdijk via Francis of Assisi, Michelangelo and Schiller. 

As it sweeps through the history of mankind, Arche also takes in the tradition of the oratorio and transforms it. Dieter Rexroth in the liner notes: “What immediately stands out is above all the impression of paradox and the vast diversity of forms and musical resources. Everything happens at once, everything interlocks. Every moment transports us into another world.” Kent Nagano directs the massed musical forces with characteristic verve, clarity and imagination in this concert recording from the premiere performance in January 2017.

Nagano has long been recognised as an ardent champion of contemporary music as well as an insightful interpreter of classical repertoire. He has had long associations with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Opéra National de Lyon, the Hallé Orchestra, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Bayerische Staatsoper, and as guest conductor has worked with many more of the world’s leading orchestras. He is currently Music Director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (with whom he has recorded Beethoven’s 4th and 5th piano concertos with Till Fellner for ECM) as well as General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Chief Conductor of the Philharmonic State Orchestra.

The Philharmonic State Orchestra is Hamburg’s largest and oldest orchestra, looking back on many years of musical history. When the “Philharmonic Orchestra” and the “Orchestra of the Hamburg Municipal Theatre” merged in 1934, two tradition-steeped orchestras combined. Philharmonic concerts have been performed in Hamburg since 1828, artists such as Clara Schumann, Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms being regular guests of the Philharmonic Society. The history of the opera company goes back even further, for Hamburg has been home to musical theatre since 1678.

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Highly regarded as clarinetist, composer and conductor Jörg Widmann is one of the most versatile artists of his generation. On ECM New Series, he previously has been featured, alongside sister Carolin Widmann, as soloist on Erkki Sven Tüür’s Noesis, a concerto for clarinet, violin and orchestra (on the album Strata, issued in 2010). A composer portrait album, released in 2011, presented two of Widmann’s major works, Elegie and Messe, performed with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie under Christoph Poppen, bridged by Fünf Bruchstücke, played by Widmann with Heinz Holliger.

Jörg Widmann was born in Munich on 19 June 1973. He studied the clarinet at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich with Gerd Starke and later with Charles Neidich at the Juilliard School in New York (1994-1995). He additionally began to take composition lessons with Kay Westermann at the age of eleven and subsequently continued his studies with Wilfried Hiller and Hans Werner Henze (1994-1996) and later Heiner Goebbels and Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe (1997-1999).

Several works have been dedicated to Widmann by fellow composers: in 1999, he performed the premiere of “Music for Clarinet and Orchestra” by Wolfgang Rihm in the musica viva concert series; in 2006, he performed "Cantus" by Aribert Reimann with the WDR symphony orchestra, and in 2009, at the Lucerne Festival, the world premiere of Rechant by Heinz Holliger. From 2001 to 2015, Widmann was professor of clarinet at the Freiburg Staatliche Hochschule für Musik where he also took up the post of professor of composition in 2009. From 2017, he holds a chair at the Barenboim-Said-Academy in Berlin.

Jörg Widmann has received numerous prizes for his compositions: the Belmont Prize for Contemporary Music from the Forberg-Schneider Foundation (1998), the Schneider-Schott Music Prize, the Paul Hindemith Prize (both in 2002), the Encouragement Award from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, the Achievement Award from the Munich Opera Festival (both in 2003) as well as the Arnold Schönberg Prize (2004). In 2006, Widmann received the Composition Prize from the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg as well as the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize from the Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2009, he received the Elise L. Stoeger Prize of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, New York and in 2013, he was awarded the Music Award of the Heidelberger Frühling and the GEMA German Music Authors Award.

CD booklet includes liner notes by Dieter Rexroth in German and English.

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