German violinist Carolin Widmann is often described as a contemporary music specialist, but she has no desire to limit herself to one genre. Interview by Gavin Dixon
Widmann has recently been exploring the world of period performance, playing Baroque to Romantic repertoire on gut strings. She has a mentor in Stephan Mai, concertmaster of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (Akamus), and has been playing regularly with the orchestra, with more engagements lined up for 2018. Moving from Boulez to Bach is not the leap that it might seem and, as she explains, there are many similarities between the Baroque and contemporary music scenes.
‘I see so many idealists in both worlds, people who really don’t care about the financial success of a piece, but who are just looking for new ways of working. I love that idealism, that pureness.
‘For example, in rehearsal with Akamus there is democracy, real democracy, with all its pitfalls. We discuss which chord should be stronger and so on: real discussion. Where does this happen? Really only in Baroque and contemporary music circles. I love it and find great inspiration every time I enter that world.’
Widmann also finds inspiration in teaching: ‘It’s not a weight on my shoulders,’ she says. ‘It gives me wings.’
She has been professor of violin at Leipzig’s University for Theatre and Music for more than ten years. ‘I was appointed to the professorship when I was extremely young,’ she remembers. ‘I was just at the end of my twenties when I was invited to join the faculty, which in Germany is such a big honour with so many privileges.
‘My students are really good. I can teach for eight hours and I don’t even feel it. Their playing inspires me, and I’m happy to have them in my life.’
To see the full interview with Carolin Widmann, including an discussion on the upcoming collaboration with her composer brother Jörg, tackling complex music, romantic repetoire and her less-is-more recording choices, download the April 2018 issue of The Strad on desktop computer or via the The Strad App, or buy the print edition