All shall have prizes: a Schumann is worth 15k

This year’s Robert Schumann prize has been awarded in Munich to Jörg Widmann, 45, for ‘outstanding work’.

That’s how German composers live, from one prize to the next. The Schumann comes with a 15,000 Euro cheque.

Tax free?



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  • Remember Norman ? In 2001, Sir John Eliot Gardiner got. the prize. Does he also live from Prize to Prize?
    Way always these petty insinuations when it comes to German cultural events- remember the Hanover violin Competition ?

  • I’m sure that Professor Widmann does not manage to live in Berlin on income from occasional prize money, in this instance amounting to around five months’ wages for an average Berliner. He must receive regular salaries from the Barenboim–Said Akademie, Hochschule für Musik Freiburg, and Irish Chamber Orchestra, as well as income from performing engagements as a conductor and clarinettist (in both solo and chamber music repertoire), and finally also income from commissions and from performances and recordings of his works. It may be that one wishes to despair that a composer must depend upon teaching and performing for a regular income, since this does in fact reflect the reality, but it is pointless to despair that a composer must live from one disbursement of prize money to the next, because this clearly is not what is actually happening.

  • We will treat this news in the way it deserves.

    Widmann is a typical example of German neurosis: a sound artist wholeheartedly embracing the aesthetics of the sixties of the last century, without having lived through the frustrations of postwar pain which was the initial impulse to all that sonic trouble – so, a thorough conventional mind, exploiting the collective self-destruction of an art form which had also created an immense heritage still performed all over the world, even as far as into the heart of communist China. A sonic German is a good German, because Hitler hated modern music at the time. The simplicity of thinking and silly parading which is behind this way of thinking, is comparable with concept art in the visual arts, with its pickled sharks, tinned artist excrements, boxes with hospital waste etc. etc. – an embarrassing exposure of an extreme poverty of thought and cultural awareness, and thus an easy pray to charlatanism and exploitation.

    The ‘Viola Concerto’ of the picture says it all:

    The theatrical beginning, the glass with water in the piano, the ‘unexpected’ farts in the brass, the singing and screaming of the soloist, it has all been done half a century ago and also then it was not amusing. Widmann sprinkles his works with short references to music, to show that he is somehow aware of the existence of that other art form – allright, after all he is also a clarinettist. But also THAT has been done, collage-like, and it has turned out to be as boring as this pretentious and empty ‘concerto’.

    Why does a respectable radio orchestra lend itself to such silly, completely outdated juvenile nonsense? Why does this young conductor, who excells in musical works, tries his best to give this embarrassing exposure some professional gloss? Well, he has been asked, of course, by the staff who thinks that programming such monstruosity is a signal of liberal, democratic, progressive thinking. German radio orchestras have been playing modernist, anti-fascist sound pieces all the time since the war, so what was progressive then, will be progressive forever. Ignorance meets moral neurosis meets charlatanesque exploitation. And the audience plays its polite role of being tolerant to ‘new music’ which we must give a chance, because otherwise serious art music would turn into a museum culture.

    No better example of a museum culture production than the Widmann brand, which attempts to freeze in time a short moment of devastating confusion which was one of the devastating results of the nazi period. In fact, sound artists like Widmann show that in the end, Hitler won in the cultural field, in the sense of destroying civilization.

    It pains me immensily to see a European nation with such a musical inheritance and with such a high level of achievement in its classical performance culture, with so many excellent orchestras and opera houses, still being the victim of an evil regime of so long ago, without being able to see beyond the confines of history and think out of the box where neurosis has locked the art form in.

    Fortunately for Klangkünstler there is hard cash to be won in the field, because that is the only thing with some value to acquire. But for players and audiences it is torture, but wrapped in moralistic absolution.

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