Sieben Abgesänge auf eine tote Linde

Jörg Widmann (b. 1973) Sieben Abgesänge auf eine tote Linde (1997)

Jörg Widmann was born in Munich in 1973. He studied clarinet at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich with Gerd Starke and later with Charles Neidich at The Juilliard School. At the age of eleven he began to take his first composition lessons and continued subsequent studies with Wilfried Hiller and Hans Werner Henze and later Heiner Goebbels and Wolfgang Rihm. He was composer and artist-in-residence at the Salzburg Festival, the Lucerne Festival, the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vienna Konzerthaus, followed by the Cleveland Orchestra throughout 2010-11. In 2001 he was appointed professor of clarinet at the Freiburg Staatliche Hochschule für Musik where he is also professor of composition.

Jörg Widmann provides the following note for Sieben Abgesänge auf eine tote Linde:

It was 1996 when I told Christoph Poppen, the former director of the Munich Chamber Orchestra, of a curious concert in Münsinger, during which one of the largest storms that the region had ever seen started. During the storm, lightning struck into a symbol of the village, a centuries-old linden tree.

In the audience at that time was the poet and writer Diana Kempff. She was immediately shaken by the death of the tree, immediately writing various poems on the event. Christoph Poppen was again—as in many other contexts—a brilliant mediator and placed her in touch with me. The idea was that in the Münsinger Church, one year later, there would be some sort of requiem for this tree.

There was soon a wonderful and very intense encounter by Diana Kempff and me. Her poetry expresses a clear and deeply tormented soul, coming to us often whimsically. Schubert’s Winterreise applies in a special way and manifests itself in the verses, through its grim character.

The first piece is a barren study of the passage of time; the nothingness. The second evokes the rain, and later—albeit with terrible effect—the storm also comes. The third song is titled “Carnival of Souls” leading to the most advanced and arguably the densest movement. The fourth song is told entirely from the perspective of the tree itself. The fifth song, with the words “and when death may come” is meant to be sad, but deliberately kept simple. The final song reflects on the Linden tree and its very soul departing.