Jörg Widmann receives the Robert Schumann Prize 2018

Clarinetist, composer, and conductor Jörg Widmann will be this year’s recipient of the Robert Schumann Prize for Poetry and Music. The prize, as the jury states in its citation, specifically honors Widmann’s works as a composer, which manifest both “a deep familiarity with the masters of the past, to whom the composer seems bound by a sacred covenant, and an irrepressible curiosity, leading him into musical spaces that no one has entered before.”

“Even when it eschews all forms of vocalization,” the jury writes, “his music is as eloquent as any text-based work of art. Through their titles, the compositions are often tied back to celebrated works of literature, as in the piano sonata ‘Fleurs du mal’ or in the ensemble piece ‘Wandrers Nachtlied’ – and yet, the words of Baudelaire or Goethe themselves are never heard. Though they do not ‘speak’, Widmann’s works – especially those within the orchestral triad of song, choir and liturgical mass – are nevertheless consistently aligned with storied literary traditions. Or they evince the lyrical intimacy, the dramatic ostentatiousness, the poetically nonsensical intensity found in the works of Klabund, Brentano, Härtling, Sloterdijk, in ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ or in the Bible. Paradigmatic examples of this literary approach are Widmann’s opera ‘Babylon’, his song cycle ‘Das heiße Herz’ and his oratorio ‘Arche’. Speaking in tones and finding meaning in the surplus resulting from the marriage of language and music – these are also defining features of the work of Robert Schumann, which has always had a deep significance for Jörg Widmann and which he has repeatedly referenced in his own compositions, most recently in his five fairy-tale pieces for clarinet, viola and piano entitled ‘Once upon a time’.”

The Robert Schumann Prize is awarded every two years to artists who have made outstanding contributions to the fields of music, poetry and musical education. The previous recipients were Pierre Boulez, Wolfgang Rihm and Aribert Reimann.

The prize will be presented on 8 November 2018 at 7 p.m. in the Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz. The congratulatory speech will be given by violinist and former chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic Prof. Dr. Clemens Hellsberg.