Jörg Widmann, Denis Kozhukhin, Irish Chamber Orchestra: Weber review – glowing composer brought out of the shadows
Jörg Widmann, Denis Kozhukhin, Irish Chamber Orchestra
Alpha Classics ALPHA 637
Jörg Widmann, clarinettist, composer and principal conductor of the Irish Chamber Orchestra, is an ardent romantic. In a note for his new album, he laments the neglect into which the work of Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) has fallen and calls the CD “a passionate plea on behalf of this brilliant composer, whose virtuosity is never empty but always inspired, glowing with dramatic tension”. He points to “a menacing depth” in Weber’s slow movements, and an “originality and sheer joy in experimentation”, which is still fascinating today.
The upshot of his outlook is that he favours an approach that is thrusting and muscular, leaning into the wind and enjoying the excitement of a headlong rush.
The big work is the composer’s Clarinet Quintet, upscaled for orchestral strings, a version that highlights the music’s concerto-like solo writing. Widmann delights every bit as much in the playful sparkiness of the fast movements as the plaintive melancholy of the introverted Adagio.
He’s equally fine in the Grand Duo Concertant, though his flights of fancy are not fully matched by pianist Denis Kozhukhin. He also conducts a colourful account of the overture to Der Freischütz, and the programme is completed by a vivid account of the compact Concertino in E flat.