A prominent figure at home in Germany, composer and clarinetist Jörg Widmann came to town Monday evening as part of the New Music From Germany series presented by the Goethe Institute. Appearing with him was the Signum Quartet, also from Germany, a noted interpreter of Widmann’s compositions, particularly his cycle of five string quartets. His String Quartet No. 3 (subtitled “The Hunt”), completed in 2003, a bizarre and often violent trashing of early-19th-century classical style, took center stage here. The other two pieces were more familiar and sedate: Joseph Haydn’s String QuartetOp. 76, No. 2, and Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Quintet Op. 34 in B-flat major.
As Widmann explained in brief remarks, his cycle of quartets is conceived as a whole, with each quartet fulfilling the function of a single movement in a five-movement work. The String Quartet No. 3 occupies the position of the Scherzo in this larger structure. For material, Widmann used an insistent rhythmic idea from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and a familiar folk tune employed in several of Robert Schumann’s major pieces.