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WORKS: Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F; Double Clarinet Concerto in B flat; Concerto in B flat for Clarinet & Bassoon
PERFORMER: Kálmán Berkes, Tomoko Takashima (clarinet), Koji Okazaki (bassoon)Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553584
Although Mozart is today recognised as the most important 18th-century composer of solo clarinet works, Carl Stamitz was at the time considered the leader of this field, with 11 solo concertos, the Double Concerto and Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon all written between 1770 and 1790. In the same way that Mozart’s works were inspired by Anton Stadler, Stamitz owes much of his enthusiasm for the instrument to his friendship with the Bohemian virtuoso Johann Joseph Beer, and while these pieces do not exploit the clarinet to the degree attained by Mozart, they are nonetheless charming and enjoyable. In structural terms they are predictably formulaic, with each of the three works adopting similar proportions and offering little in the way of harmonic innovation, yet the solo writing is surprisingly virtuosic for the period. Kálmán Berkes plays with a beautifully liquid and even tone, although it is somewhat lacking in variety, and the choice of his former student Tomoko Takashima as partner in the Double Concerto produces an extremely well-blended result. This is probably the weakest of the three pieces, the most successful being the Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon, which provides greater dramatic possibilities and highlights the different personalities of the soloists. Tim Payne