Jörg Widmann Conducts Orchestral Works by Mendelssohn

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn,Widmann
LABELS: Orfeo
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn • Widmann
WORKS: Mendelssohn: Symphony Nos 1 & 4; Widmann: Ad absurdum
PERFORMER: Sergei Nakariakov (trumpet); Irish Chamber Orchestra/Jorg Widmann
CATALOGUE NO: C 914 161 A  

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Composer/conductor Jörg Widmann’s desire for virtuosity to create astonishment (‘I want to be amazed… like a child’) and to venture on the impossible is certainly fulfilled in his Ad absurdum for trumpet and orchestra, in which Sergei Nakariakov’s pyrotechnics at times defy belief. While I think I would need repeated hearings fully to appreciate the work’s form, there’s no mistaking the inventiveness of many of the textures, with the orchestra at times matching the soloist in technical address, and certainly the fade-out ending is beautifully managed.

Whether, as the note writer claims, hearing this piece affects our perception of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, I take leave to doubt. It’s true that Mendelssohn had a taste for speed, but there are no accounts of players finding his tempos unplayable. Here, the opening Allegro vivace is just a tad too fast, so offbeat quavers are scrambled and the essential liveliness is tinged with anxiety. It’s a pity that just before the final A minor Saltarello someone in the upper strings tweaks an open G string, but more importantly in both symphonies the sound of the full orchestra at high volume is rather harsh – whether the acoustics of the hall are at all responsible I wouldn’t like to say. Also the first violins don’t quite have the carrying power to allow them to sail over the top of the texture. Happily, in Widmann’s more lightly scored piece balance is not a problem.

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Roger Nichols