THE first outstanding concert of the New Year in Manchester strikes a lively note. Brilliant German violinist Carolin Widmann appears with the Hallé and conductor Markus Stenz, in a piece specially written for her.
It’s good to welcome back the brilliant young German maestro, director of music in the city of Cologne and conductor of its historic Gürzenich Orchestra and until recently the Hallé’s principal guest conductor.
The violin work is called In Liebliche Bläue, and is inspired by a poem of that name by Friedrich Hölderlin. It’s by British composer Julian Anderson, who has written for a range of groups from ballet companies to choral music. But he says this is his first concerto-type piece for soloist and orchestra.
“In a sense, there is a parallel between writing a violin concerto and an aria for solo soprano and orchestra,” he says. “And also I conceived this piece in dramatic terms.
“It’s based on a prose poem by Friedrich Hölderlin, the great German 19th century writer. I first encountered it when I was 13 and was very struck by it, and I immediately began making sketches for a concerto for violin and orchestra, inspired by this poem.
“My idea was always to write what I would call a lyrical poem for violin and orchestra, that would be a match to the lyrical poem in prose that Hölderlin wrote.
“The writing for violin is very varied: it ranges from fleeting high sounds – whispery sounds – to full-blooded melodic, lyrical writing … staccato, pizzicato … and also bowing the wrong way!
“If you bow the violin that way you get a kind of brushing sound that’s very evocative.
“Also at times she puts her bow down and plays her violin with the wood of a pencil, which actually makes a very good, pitched, clear sound.
“The poem is really about beauty, in all its forms, and this piece is, too. It’s meant to be a very definite kind of beauty, not a soft, comfy-chair kind of beauty but something perhaps quite searing at times - certainly elusive, fleeting, and by necessity something that doesn’t last.”
In Liebliche Bläue had its world premiere in London in March, 2015 – now Manchester gets the chance to hear it.
The concert, on January 12, also contains two masterpieces of the western European classical repertoire: Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ symphony (no. 41, his last in the genre), and Schumann’s fourth.