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World Premieres of Jörg Widmann's String Quartet No. 9 in Amsterdam and Variacions sobre ‚El cant dels ocells’ in Barcelona

Feb. 15, 2023

On February 8, the Ruysdael Quartet performed the world premiere of Jörg Widmann's String Quartet No. 9 at the Grote Zaal, Muziekgebouw Amsterdam. Widmann notes:

"The String Quartet No. 9 forms the penultimate work in my Beethoven Study quartet cycle. The sacred musical number 9 inspired me to create an especially substantial and intense composition. The second movement, a Scherzo, and the fourth movement Allegro alla marcia have become simply gigantic in their dimensions and in the density of information and impulses in comparison to their historical models. This 9th quartet has a particular focus on Beethoven’s still unattainable Quartet in C-sharp minor, op. 131. As in the other quartets in the cycle, I have been amazed at the new forms which have evolved during my preoccupation with their historical models and the extent of previously unknown spiritual depths in my own music during the process of composition."

Jörg Widmann's String Quartet No. 9 was commissioned by Muziekgebouw Amsterdam, Chamber Music Northwest and Zunftkonzerte Zürich.

Additionally, on February 18, Jörg Widmann conducts Orfeó Català and organist Juan de la Rubia in the world premeire of his Variacions sobre ‚El cant dels ocells’ at the Palau de la Música Catalana, Sala de Concerts on a program that also features performances by the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya of Widmann's Con brio and Violin Concerto No. 2 featuring Carolin Widmann as soloist. The composer notes:

"I have felt a close connection to the city of Barcelona and its magnificent temple of music, the Palau de la Música Catalana, for many years. When I was asked to write a piece for this special place, its baroque organ and the wonderful local Orfeó Català folk choir, I immediately thought of the old Catalan Christmas carol 'El cant dels ocells'. However, I also studied a multitude of other Catalan songs - and yet I was happy to come back to this beautiful 'bird song' and write variations in my musical language on this sublime melody, which has not only been popular since Pablo Casals, the great cellist who ended all of his concerts in exile since 1939 with this song, but has become a kind of secret Catalan national anthem. Even after working intensively with this melody, it remains mysterious and fascinating for me how perfectly the proclamation of happiness in the text, in which more than thirty small and large bird species celebrate the birth of Christ, harmonizes with the floating yet glittering melancholy of this minor melody.

May the beauty of this old song be experienced in a new way through my variations and different illumination of the original."

Variacions sobre ‚El cant dels ocells’ was commissioned by Palau de la Música Orfeó Català. 

For more information on Jörg Widmann, visit

Jörg Widmann
String Quartet No. 9 (2022)

Variacions sobre ‚El cant dels ocells’ (2022)
fantasy for choir and organ

Con brio (2008)

Vioin Concerto No. 2 (2018)
for violin and orchestra
3(1-3.pic).3(,3.cb-cl).3([all with 5th string low B]