Widmann: Fieberphantasie

Program Note

Jörg Widmann  (b.1973)
Fieberphantasie (Fever Fantasy) (1999)

“I have always felt that Robert Schumann’s music resembled the contours of a fever curve: nervous, unsteady, and feverish, with an endless multitude of smaller and larger wave peaks and troughs within the progression of the curve.  Although, or perhaps specifically because I love Schumann’s music to such a great extent, my own music has at first sight little in common to that of Schumann’s.

Initially, my aim was merely to approach the phenomenon of the ‘fever curve contours.’  Unconsciously however, the notes c—f—e—d# gradually kept creeping more and more into the work, forming themselves into blocks and chords.  It was only much later in the progress of my composition that I realized that this note sequence formed the beginning of Schumann’s First Violin Sonata, there naturally within the context of A minor—unequivocally Schumann’s favorite key.  It was only at this point that it became clear to me that my composition was on a course of magnetic attraction towards this moment in Schumann’s music.

It is however not only here—in a passage which is easily recognizable for the listener—that Schumann’s melodic style is present; reduced to motivic abbreviations, it furtively pervades the entire composition—even the trills.  I construct chords utilizing the tonal material and at certain points insert foreign notes, lending the chord  specific color.  This permits Schumann’s melodic fragment to be quasi ‘held over’ in the form of long sustained notes—or I do exactly the opposite and atomize the tonal sequence.

The material connection with Schumann unfolds almost manically in the composition of Fieberphantasie and yet—as it appears to me—the work is simultaneously from the aspect of tonal texture one of my most experimental compositions.”

—Jörg Widmann