Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major; Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor
Mirijam Contzen (violin); WDR Symphony/Reinhard Goebel
Sony Classical 19075929632 71.32 mins
No one need feel ashamed of never having heard, or even heard of, Franz Joseph Clement (1780-1842). Before this new recording, there was only half of one disc devoted to him in the catalogue. This new one is part of a series in which Sony will explore the works of Beethoven’s contemporaries, and I can’t say I found my appetite whetted for subsequent issues.
Clement was apparently a superb violinist, for whom his friend Beethoven wrote his Violin Concerto, as great a tribute as could be paid. These two concertos are in an idiom which is decidedly post-Mozart, in fact is suggestive of Beethoven’s middle period, but there is no hint of inspiration, nothing memorable, not even a theme to register. And oddly, though Reinhard Goebel is the conductor, the WDR Symphony Orchestra plays in a smooth way suggestive of orchestral playing of the latter part of the last century.
Mirijam Contzen is the adequate, conscientious soloist, but there is very little that she can do with the material at hand. If you hadn’t been told, you’d have said that this was the work of a fluent and ungifted pupil. We don’t need anyone to show us that Beethoven was a genius in a class of his own, but it seems rather cruel to demonstrate so impressively the colossal gap between him and a merely conscientious contemporary – and there were certainly many finer composers around than Clement who would have made that point. Michael Tanner