Classical : Irish Chamber Orchestra

University of Limerick


Back from its triumphant tour of the US, the ICO came home to its Limerick base to present the second in the series of concerts, entitled “Wunderkind ” by the orchestra’s Principal Guest conductor, Jorg Widmann. The ‘wonder-child’ in question is Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), who composed 13 symphonies between his 12th and 15th birthdays, thus beginning even more precociously than Mozart.

We heard String Symphonies Nos 3 in B minor and 7 in D minor in this concert, bookending, as it were, a quintet by Mozart and a quartet by Jorg Widmann.

Widmann conducted the two symphonies, composed the string quartet, and was the clarinettist in Mozart’s glorious Clarinet Quintet. The contrast between the two chamber works could not possibly have been starker.

Mozart’s masterpiece contains some of his most refined, exquisitely melodic music. Widmann’s Jagdquartett Quartet No 3 (Hunting Quartet) contains the most hideously ugly, dramatic anti-music noise that I have ever experienced, and the audience loved it.

Widmann writes that Jagdquartett is the third of five quartets that, if played in sequence, would form a five-movement quartet. This would be the grim Scherzo.

The opening ‘hunting’ rhythmic figure gradually gives way to what might be imagined as a pack of hounds in full flight, baying at the prospect of a kill, and the final screeching of the torn-asunder victim.

While the playing by the unfortunate quartet who had to subject their instruments to indescribable ugliness was superb, I have to question the musical worth of such a composition.

Just occasionally, I would have welcomed a more assertive approach by the other string quartet from within the ICO in order to match Widmann’s rich, warm playing in the Mozart quintet but, generally, this was a most pleasing interpretation.

Similarly, the tone, balance, dynamic variety, and joie de vivre in the Mendelssohn symphonies were delightful.


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