Mendelssohn: Symphony No 5 in D minor, Op 107 (Reformation); Clarinet Sonata: Andante (orch Widmann, 2016); Widmann: Versuch über die Fuge; Mozart: Adagio & Fugue in C minor, K546

Reviewed on Mon 19 Jun, 2017

Jörg Widmann's ingeniously scored Versuch über die Fuge calls for a soprano (in this context the excellent Mojca Erdmann), an oboist and a chamber orchestra, and leaves an extremely powerful impression.

Just a fortnight ago, I reviewed Antonello Manacorda’s Kammerakademie Potsdam version of the Reformation Symphony (Sony Classical), which unusually uses Christopher Hogwood’s edition of the score, where passages that Mendelssohn cut after the work’s first performance are restored. Jörg Widmann opts for the more familiar revision, and while the playing of the excellent Irish Chamber Orchestra is scarcely less good than that of their Potsdam counterparts (the majestic closing sequence is especially impressive), the sound isn’t quite as full-bodied. Still, those who prefer the revision to the ‘original’ will find themselves well served by Widmann and his orchestra. The remainder of the programme includes Mozart’s humbling Adagio and Fugue in C minor, the fugue in particular swift and incisive. And there’s Widmann’s own work, a strangely evocative arrangement of the Andante from Mendelssohn’s Clarinet Sonata (for clarinet, string orchestra, harp and celesta) and ‘Attempt at the Fugue’, a strikingly dramatic deployment of Biblical texts that initially seems anxious to get airborne, Grosse Fuge-style. This ingeniously scored essay calls for a soprano (in this context the excellent Mojca Erdmann), an oboist and a chamber orchestra, and leaves an extremely powerful impression. I’ve already returned to it a number of times and I’d say that you wouldn’t be misguided if you invested in this well planned programme for its sake alone.
–Rob Cowan