Education and career
Widmann was born in Munich and first took clarinet lessons in 1980. A year later he became a composition student of Kay Westermann (born 1958), subsequently also studying with Hans Werner Henze, Wilfried Hiller, Heiner Goebbels and Wolfgang Rihm. As a clarinettist, he graduated from the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München and from the Juilliard School in New York. After graduating with a Master's from Munich in 1997, he furthered his studies at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe. Since 2001 he has taught the clarinet as a Professor at the Freiburg Music College. In January 2008 Widmann signed a contract as a demi-Professor of Composition, succeeding Mathias Spahlingers, at the Institute for New Music at the Freiburg Music College.
Jörg Widmann has achieved success both as a clarinettist and as a composer. As a soloist, he has performed with major orchestras both in Germany and abroad, under such conductors as Christoph von Dohnányi, Sylvain Cambreling and Kent Nagano. Several clarinet concerti have been dedicated to Widmann and premiered by him: in 1999 through "musica viva", he played Music for Clarinets and Orchestra by Wolfgang Rihm, and in 2006 with the WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cantus by Aribert Reimann.
Jörg Widmann's compositions draw on different musical genres. He has composed, for example, a Trilogy for orchestra examining the projection of vocal forms of instrumental ensembles. The Trilogy consists of Lied (premiered in 2003 and recorded on CD by the Bamberg Symphony with Jonathan Nott), Chor (premiered in 2004 by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin with Kent Nagano) and Messe, which was premiered in June 2005 by the Munich Philharmonic under Christian Thielemann. In 2007 Pierre Boulez and the Vienna Philharmonic premiered his orchestral work Armonica.
His string quartets are of particular note among his chamber music works: First String Quartet (1997), followed by Choral Quartet and Hunting Quartet, which was premiered in 2003 with the Arditti Quartet. 2005 saw the first performances of Fourth String Quartet and of Experiment on a Fugue (Fifth String Quartet with soprano), with Juliane Banse and the Artemis Quartet. Together, this series of quartets forms a great cycle.
His études IV-VI for violin (2004–10) were premiered by his sister Carolin Widmann at the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik on 23 April 2010. He performed his Fantasie for clarinet (1993) to celebrate the 80th birthday of Walter Fink at the Rheingau Musik Festival on 16 July 2010.
On 9 September 2015, the Boston Symphony and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra announced they were commissioning a work from Widmann as part of a planned collaboration by the two organizations beginning in the fall of 2017.
Widmann's works are published by Schott Music.
- 1996 Kulturförderpreis der Landeshauptstadt München
- 1997 Bayerischer Staatspreis für junge Künstler
- 2002 Paul Hindemith Prize of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival
- 2003 Ernst von Siemens Music Composers' Prize
- 2003/04 award of the magazine Opernwelt: "most important premiere of the season: Das Gesicht im Spiegel"
- 2004 Arnold Schönberg Prize
- 2006 Kompositionspreis of the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg for Zweites Labyrinth
- 2006 Claudio Abbado-Preis of the Orchester-Akademie of the Berlin Philharmonic
- 2009 Stoeger Prize of the New York Chamber Music Society
- Absences Schuloper (1990)
- Kreisleriana concert piece for violin and chamber orchestra (1993)
- Fantasie for clarinet solo (1993)
- First String Quartet (1997)
- Five Fragments for clarinet and piano (1997)
- Nocturne for piano, clarinet and violoncello (1998)
- Fever Fantasy for piano, string quartet and clarinet (with bass clarinet) (1999)
- Implosion for orchestra (2001)
- Light Study I for orchestra (2001)
- Free Pieces for ensemble (2002)
- Toccata (2002)
- Second String Quartet (Choral Quartet) (2003)
- Hall Study for Piano (2003)
- The Face in the Mirror, opera in 16 scenes, libretto by Roland Schimmelpfennig (2003)
- Third String Quartet (Hunting Quartet) (2003)
- Lied for orchestra (2003)
- Chor for orchestra (2004)
- Skeleton for percussion (2004)
- Light Studies (I-VI) for violin, viola, accordion, clarinet, piano and orchestra (2004)
- Fourth String Quartet (2005)
- Experiment on a Fugue (Fifth String Quartet with soprano) (2005)
- Messe for full orchestra (2005)
- Air for horn solo (2005)
- Labyrinth for 48 chordophones (2005)
- Elegy for clarinet and orchestra (2006)
- Echo-Fragments for clarinet and orchestral group (2006)
- Second Labyrinth for orchestral group (2006)
- Armonica for glass harmonica and orchestra (2007)
- Violin Concerto (2007)
- Con brio for orchestra (2008)
- Antiphon for orchestral group (2008)
- Concerto for Oboe (2009)
- Flûte en suite for flute and orchestral group (2011)
- Babylon, opera in 7 scenes, libretto by Peter Sloterdijk (2012)
- Trauermarsch for piano and orchestra (2014)
- Viola concerto (2015)
- ARCHE, oratorio for soloists, choirs, organ and orchestra (2016)
- String Quartets, Leipzig String Quartet (MDG 2008)
- String Quartets, Minguet Quartett (Wergo 2015)
- Jagdquartettt (String Quartet No. 3) (with Haydn and Schubert Quartets) Ragazze Quartet (Channel Classics 2013)
- MusikTexte, 2/2008, S. 44
- "Freitag 23. April 2010" (in German). Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik. 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
- "Komponistenwerkstatt: Walter Fink zum 80. Geburtstag" (in German). Rheingau Musik Festival. 2010. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- "Nelsons to succeed Chailly in Leipzig". Classical Music. 10 September 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- Powell, Andrew (November 23, 2012). "Widmann's Opera Babylon". Musical America. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
- Elbphilharmonie programme, 13 January 2017
- Siglind Bruhn: Die Musik von Jörg Widmann. Edition Gorz, Waldkirch 2013, ISBN 978-3-938095-16-4
- Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich (Hrsg.): Spuren - Der Komponist Jörg Widmann. Edition Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Mainz 2013, ISBN 978-3-7957-0847-4