Carolin Widmann: Reflections
Carolin Widmann is an outstandingly enterprising artist at a time when many leading violinists are content to stick with the familiar. For her debut disc, first issued in 2006, she chose to highlight strongly contrasted styles: a pair of Romantic sonatas on the one hand and three contemporary works, including one by her brother Jörg, on the other. Both Ysaÿe sonatas are freshly imagined by Widmann, instances of polished stability in the more turbulent musical seas which surround them. But the overall effect of these chalk-and-cheese juxtapositions is to suggest that the disc works best as a sequence of compositions to be heard separately, not as a continuous programme; and with one of the contemporary pieces, hearing the six constituent movements separately is also the best bet.
Jörg Widmann’s three Etudes (another three have been written since) have enough differences in texture and character to make them effective as a single composition. Nevertheless, I have doubts about the way the longest, No 2, progresses from sounds of eerie subtlety (the violinist vocalising as well as playing) to something much more forceful but less memorable. With Sciarrino’s Capriccios, the haunting repetitions of No 2 are the high point, the rest relying on a restricted repertoire of brittle and febrile effects: maybe the six were not intended to be heard as a continuous set? Boulez’s Anthèmes, for which he later provided an electronic elaboration, also has its repetitive routines. But the verve and economy of the overall design makes this the most satisfying of all the pieces included. The booklet says nothing salient about the compositions and their individual titles can be found only on the back of the jewel box, virtually illegible as printed in turquoise on black.