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Work of the Week – Jörg Widmann: Kantate

300 years of Bach in Leipzig and 50 years of Widmann! The new work Kantate by Jörg Widmann will be premiered in Leipzig on 08 June 2023 with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Tomanerchor in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. In the opening concert of the Bach Festival Leipzig, Andreas Reize, Johann Sebastian Bach's 18th successor as Thomaskantor, will take over the musical direction.

This thirty-five minute work is composed in loose imitation of Bach's cantata form for soli SATB, choir and orchestra and is divided into seven sections. It begins with an instrumental prelude which is followed with texts by Matthias Claudius, Jean Paul, Berthold Brecht, and the Bible. The emotional core is formed by a large chorale with words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Von guten Mächten. The texts are not only about faith in God and his praise; but also about the cruelties of war and the beauties of life. Widmann ends his Kantate on a hopeful note and concludes with a Hallelujah.

War and hope: Kantate by Jörg Widmann

Kantate was commissioned from Widmann to mark the 300th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach's inauguration as Thomaskantor. Bach's 200 or so cantatas known today feature a variety of different forms and instrumentations within a certain framework and are widely regarded as the pinnacle of the genre. Widmann's work is linked to the essence of the genre by its unconditional focus on chorale-like lyrical texts. The form of his cantata clearly relates to Bach's approach, but is far larger and more fully scored. Widmann does not use larger solo parts such as arias or recitatives and instead allows the choir to play a more central role, for example in an a cappella chorale at the beginning of the fourth movement on Brecht's Lasst euch nicht verführen. The result is a multifaceted, modern choral symphonic work in compact form.

So by the time I’ve finished a piece, I will have hardly slept at all. And I don’t want to. These are the clearest moments for me, where I really can visualize the work, and I can hear it very clearly. At the beginning, it’s not there yet. (Jörg Widmann)

Jörg Widmann celebrates his 50th birthday on 19 June 2023. To mark the occasion, the new film "Im Labyrinth - der Musiker Jörg Widmann" by Holger Preusse will be broadcast on arte on 18 June and will be available via the Mediathek. The documentary will also be shown on 20 June in the Gasteig Munich and paired with a live interview with Preusse, Widmann and Susanne Hermanski.

On June 22, Widmann will conduct his own birthday concert at the Prinzregententheater in Munich, where the Munich Chamber Orchestra and the vocal ensemble Amarcord will present works by Widmann and a world premiere by György Ligeti. Starting with the upcoming 2023/24 season, Widmann will not only be composer and principal guest conductor with the NDR Radiophilharmonie, but also composer in residence with the Berlin Philharmonic.


Jörg Widmann: Composer Profile

Kantate: Work Details and Online Score

Website Thomanerchor Leipzig

Widmann Film on arte.tv

Berlin Philharmonic: Widmann in Residence


Foto: Marco Borggreve