Honorary doctorate recipient Professor Jörg Widmann listening to music by harpist Anna Eggersberger at the Irish World Academy of Dance and Music. Picture: Alan Place
World-renowned composer, Professor Jörg Widmann has received an honorary doctorate from University of Limerick due to his “extraordinary contribution” during his time as ICO principal conductor
University of Limerick was alive with music on Friday as one of the world’s most prolific composers received an honorary doctorate.
Professor Jörg Widmann, world-renowned composer, clarinettist, and former principal conductor of the Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO), was conferred by UL President Professor Kerstin Mey in a ceremony at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.
He received the honour due to the “extraordinary contribution” he made during his time as principal conductor of the ICO, which is resident at the Irish World Academy in UL.
An acclaimed soloist and conductor, he is one of the world’s most frequently performed living composers.
The ceremony also featured the presentation of the inaugural ICO scholarships to two students of the MA in Classical String Performance programme.
Professor Mey said, “The partnership between the Irish World Academy and ICO represents the oldest and longest artistic residency in the Academy and has been at the heart of the development of performing arts education at UL.
“The partnership between us led us to the creation of the first ever university-based postgraduate programme dedicated to classical string performance in Ireland. Now in its 25th year, the MA in Classical String Performance has consistently attracted international students from across the globe – it sits as a paragon of musical education.
“Today we are recognising the amazing work and growing international reputation of the ICO, which has expanded in the last decade under the artistic leadership of Jörg Widmann. In turn, this growth and development has further enhanced the reputation of the MA Classical String Performance.
“50 years ago, this institution was born out of a determined dedication to bring excellence in education to this region and this year we are celebrating the half-century of breakthrough and success.
“Among the many successes and firsts that UL enjoys is indeed the success of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and the vision that lay before it when it was founded.
“Today, we continue to enjoy what the Academy brings from around the world and what we here in Limerick can offer its scholars, visitors, and performers.
“I want to offer our collective thanks and congratulations to Professor Widmann, and it is fitting that the programme’s two inaugural scholarship recipients share the stage with our honorary doctorate recipient on this day of celebrating achievements in music and dance at UL when we also recognise the contributions of past and present colleagues more broadly,” Professor Mey added.
Jörg Widmann signed off as Principal Conductor of Irish Chamber Orchestra after a decade-long tenure last year.
An initial three-year tenure quickly evolved into a 10-year stay as he catapulted the ICO across Europe and beyond and established himself as a force to be reckoned with at the helm of the orchestra, one of Ireland’s most colourful and diverse ensembles.
During his tenure, the ICO secured two recording contracts with prestigious world labels resulting in six CD releases, recorded at UL. From Munich, Widmann’s own CV includes more than 20 album releases, 50 compositions and 17 prestigious international awards.
Professor Widmann said it was “really a great honour for me to receive this honorary doctorate from the University of Limerick, because I of course had a long connection with Ireland in general and with Limerick and the University in particular because I had the privilege to work for a long time together with the wonderful Irish Chamber Orchestra.
“Our studio is there – we rehearse and perform on the University campus – so in my life, not only in my artistic life, it means a lot to me what is happening today. It is so wonderful because it is, in a literal sense, family with me today. My mother turned 80 last year and it was a big effort for her to travel so it is wonderful to have her here today, and my musical family, the ICO, it is really wonderful.”
The honorary doctorate ceremony featured performances by members of the ICO and students of the MA Classical String Performance programme at the Irish World Academy.
The inaugural ICO scholarships were awarded to two students of the MA in Classical String Performance programme – Jeannette Bogado and Anna Mária Miklós.
Professor Widmann made special mention of the deep partnership between UL and the ICO.
“It is really so wonderful to have this connection between the institutions – because so many places have a wonderful orchestra or a wonderful university but there is not so much interaction going on. Also, the MA students will play today and make music today during the ceremony, that shows how naturally all the activities are integrated in the University and orchestra life,” he explained.
Having made its home at the University of Limerick since 1995 as orchestra-in-residence, the ICO runs UL’s MA in Classical String Performance in conjunction with the Academy.
The programme provides students with ‘hands-on’ contact to the orchestra and its visiting directors, soloists and guests.
ICO Chief Executive Gerard Keenan said Widmann’s “exceptional artistic achievements on the international stage and his outstanding service to the University of Limerick make him an exceptionally worthy candidate for the award of honorary doctorate.
“Under Jörg’s 10-year artistic leadership, ICO has been one of UL’s most effective and high-profile ambassadors, flying the flag on the international stage in support of the university’s ambition for excellence in artistic and educational practice and its commitment to the project of internationalisation.
“The orchestra’s vital contribution to the educational mission and artistic life of UL is underpinned and motivated by both its core belief in the power of music as a positive force in our lives and its commitment to supporting the development of future generations of Irish and international musicians,” Mr Keenan added.