J. Widmann, Violin Concerto, C. Tetzlaff, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, D. Harding (Ondine, 2013)
Sandwiched between the two symphonies was the U.S. premiere of Jörg Widmann's violin concerto, premiered in 2007. While the composer's Armonica, performed by the NSO in 2012, left me underwhelmed, this work, more austere and rarefied, held my attention. The effect was due not least to the soloist, Christian Tetzlaff (last heard with the NSO in 2010), who premiered the work and has an intense expertise over it. The soloist never stops playing during this half-hour concerto, in a single movement dense with ideas, meaning that Tetzlaff, playing from a score, required a page-turner, who sat at the side of the conductor's podium. The score begins low on the violin, which is answered by somber, low sounds from the orchestra, which sets up the main theme of the piece from one point of view. Throughout the concerto, the violin and the orchestra explore the same sonorities -- lush melodies answered by harp and metallic percussion, the stratospheric sounds of the E string and cosmic harmonics draw forth the celesta and other high instruments, more percussive attacks correspond to the ratchet and col legno strings. Tetzlaff's immaculate intonation kept those impossibly high notes more beautiful than painful, giving the sense of the instrument producing sounds it was never meant to make.
Anne Midgette, NSO review: The good, the bad and the plodding of Eschenbach in 2014 (Washington Post, February 28)
This concert repeats this evening (March 1, 8 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.