Poppe's violin concerto Schnur – WP at Beethovenfest

Poppe's violin concerto Schnur – WP at Beethovenfest

In September 2019, Enno Poppe's violin concerto Schnur, commissioned by the Bonn Beethovenfest, was premiered by Carolin Widmann and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under its new principal conductor Alan Gilbert. Following the concert in Bonn, which also included Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and his Seventh Symphony, the orchestra brought the piece to Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie and to Lübeck. Poppe's new work pays homage to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, which the composer – who also has a predilection for string instruments – chose as a point of reference. Apart from using almost the identical instrumentation – there are two additional percussionists in Schnur – Poppe subtly quotes the Beethoven with its four signature timpani beats. Carolin Widmann, who worked closely with the composer during the creation of his work, will return as soloist in next year’s performance of the piece with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Poppe himself.

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


Watch the complete perfomance of Schnur at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg via ARTE Concert from 11:31 min.

Score of Schnur

Photos: Barbara Frommann (title), Jascha Zube