Poppe: violin concerto

Poppe: violin concerto "Schnur" and new video

"I like to be surprised by music. I don't like being bored, and I like the incomprehensible."

In our new video, the composer Enno Poppe tells us more about the impressive world premiere of his new violin concerto Schnur and the collaboration with Carolin Widmann, Alan Gilbert and other musicians - and he shares his thoughts on conducting with an open mind in laboratory-like rehearsals. 

Watch the full interview

In September 2019, Enno Poppe's violin concerto Schnur, commissioned by the Beethovenfest Bonn, was premiered by Carolin Widmann and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under Alan Gilbert. Carolin Widmann, who worked closely with the composer on the concerto, will return as a soloist and present the piece with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Enno Poppe himself on 17 March 2020 – again in Bonn.

Schnur (2019)

for violin solo and orchestra - - timp.2perc -
World Premiere: Bonn, 24.9.2019
Duration: 20'

About the work

"In the music’s gestation process, Poppe collaborated closely with [Carolin] Widmann, carrying out genuine research... He has explored the varieties of vibrato, especially the possibility of using it to alter tonal colour. To the extent that vibrato in music is associated with subjectivity and personal choice, Poppe’s systematic treatment of it is most unusual. It is not a given, Poppe explains, that musicians will allow the composer to intervene in their vibrato."

"Widmann […] has permitted that and, together with the composer, explored vibrato variants and related effects such as glissando and tremolo. This involves the relation of the left hand to bow pressure and speed, nuances of sound, and new possibilities of microtonality. Incredible things are generated when, for example, the left hand plays molto vibrato and the right hand plays bowing vibrato, an actual Baroque bowing technique. The result is an “almost hysterical sound […]"

"To this vibrating, sliding microtonality are added microtonal chords where Poppe is working with intervals that sound strange to our tempered ears. These chords emerge especially distinctly at the end of an orchestral tutti section. These notions of sound are complemented by structural notions already suggested in the title... The solo instrument’s part is a string or line drawn through the entire piece. The work, in Poppe’s words, is “conceived linearly, monophonically”. […] The violin is in constant motion, playing almost continuously, the finger always in a sliding motion across the fingerboard. On to this string, Poppe fastens the accompaniment. He seeks out diverse orchestral constellations for the solo violin to play in. Sometimes they are chords, at other times linear networks. Most of all they are constantly changing colours, duets of individual string instruments, a layer with clarinet and horns. Thus the unconventional violin sounds are always being contextualized in new colours."

Excerpt from the program note by Björn Gottstein.
Published with kind permission by the author and Beethovenfest Bonn. 

Picture of Carolin Widmann, Alan Gilbert und Enno Poppe
Rehearsal of Schnur with Carolin Widmann, Alan Gilbert and Enno Poppe, September 2019

Press quote

"The beginning of the work sounds as if one were listening to violin vibrato through an acoustical microscope. In any case, the waves of the pitch fluctuations sound slowed down in the extreme. Poppe has actually made vibrato the subject of his concerto.... The orchestra, so to speak, envelops the solo instrument with sound that grows increasingly dense. Poppe, born in the Beethoven year of 1970, calls his concerto “Schnur” (meaning string or line), a title whose brevity is typical for this composer. It is also highly apt to the work’s content, because nothing, not even the violent convulsions developing later, can deflect the solo instrument from its straight path through the score until it finally floats away, twittering in its highest harmonics. The orchestra under its new chief conductor Alan Gilbert delivered a brilliant performance."
Bonner Rundschau, 26 September 2019


24.09.2019 (WP)
World Conference Center Bonn (Beethovenfest Bonn), Carolin Widmann (violin), Alan Gilbert (cond.), NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra 


Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Carolin Widmann (violin), Alan Gilbert (cond.), NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

Musik- und Kongresshalle Lübeck, Carolin Widmann (violin), Alan Gilbert (cond.), NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Carolin Widmann (violin), Alan Gilbert (cond.), NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

Theater Bonn (Beethovenfest Bonn), Carolin Widmann (violin), Enno Poppe (cond.), Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Score of Schnur

Photos: Pearls & Beans (title), Jascha Zube