Jörg Widmann performs Widmann, Mozart and Weber
People who want the Mozart and Weber clarinet concertos generally prefer them coupled with other Mozart and Weber clarinet works – not interspersed with solo clarinet miniatures in a boldly 21st-century idiom. But as a portrait of Jörg Widmann, the superbly imaginative German virtuoso clarinettist and composer, it does add up. Widmann’s Three Shadow Dances skilfully display different aspects of ‘extended’ woodwind techniques – microtones, harmonics, percussive key strokes etc – which will entertain some listeners more than others.
In an enthusiastic booklet essay Widmann underlines his involvement with the drama of both concertos, finding in each the play of shadow and sunshine ‘born out of the spirit of the theatre’. This leads him, with expert support from Peter Ruzicka and the Berlin orchestra, to a ravishingly poetic account of the Weber First characterised by bel canto phrase-shaping and concentration on colouristic half-lights. The Rondo finale sparkles, but the performance’s true heart is its perfectly sustained Romantic daydream of an Adagio.
The same qualities infuse the Mozart, to perhaps less remarkable effect. Widmann employs a conventional clarinet, not the low-note-rich basset clarinet generally favoured nowadays, and the dreamy quality of the interpretation (increased by the soft-focus sound picture), extremely beautiful in its way, tends to iron out contrasts that for instance Sabine Meyer (with Abbado), Michael Collins (with Pletnev) and, on period instruments, Antony Pay (with Hogwood) so vividly explore in their Mozart recordings.