JÖRG WIDMANN (b.1973): Viola Concerto (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; Daniel Harding), Jagdquartett (Signum Quartet), 4 Duos for Violin and Viola (Marc Bouchkov [violin]), 5 Duos for Viola and Cello (Bruno Philippe [cello]).
Catalogue Number: 04T077
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Reference: HMM 902268
Description: The Viola Concerto, typically of the composer, affectionately acknowledges the past, especially the Romantic era, dear to him as performer - and then gleefully reinvents it according to his own rules, while retaining the scale, lofty intent and emotional heft of works from before avant gardism was an end in itself. The large five-movement work follows a symphonic trajectory which is only revealed as it progresses; faced with the wildly inventive and theatrical first movement in isolation, a conservative listener might be left wondering what on earth they'd gotten into. An eight-minute accompanied cadenza featuring the viola playing only pizzicato (and percussively) explores every conceivable kind of extended technique, with strange vibrati and pitch-bending. However, this entertaining piece of performance art gives way to "a wistful song from an imaginary oriental fairytale world" - gorgeously exotic, mysterious and melodious. Two short movements follow; a zany, absurdist scherzo full of wild virtuosity and atonal fireworks, including a climactic yelp from the soloist and the viola equivalent of vocal multiphonics, which turns into a propulsive toccata. But the finale is the real surprise; a profoundly moving, achingly beautiful aria for the soloist and muted strings, described by the composer as "a painfully intimate swan song". The "Hunt Quartet", Widmann's third, incorporates shouts from the players in the course of a violent scherzo which distorts and fragments classical traditions, and themes from Beethoven, Schumann, Mozart and Haydn, as it becomes increasingly frenetic and dissonant, finally becoming exclusively noise, rhythm and wild yelling as it hunts down the unfortunate cello, before disintegrating. The little duos are character pieces, some humorous, some sounding like sketches for larger works. Antoine Tamestit (viola).