LABELS: EMI Great Recordings of the Century
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto No. 1; Clarinet Concerto No. 2; Clarinet Concertino in E flat; Clarinet Quintet in B flat (arranged for string orchestra)
PERFORMER: Sabine Meyer (clarinet); Württemberg CO Heilbronn/Jörg Faerber, Dresden Staatskapelle/Herbert Blomstedt
CATALOGUE NO: 5 67988 2 Reissue (1986, 1985)
Sabine Meyer’s mid-Eighties performances of the Weber concertos have rarely been surpassed for polish and technical brilliance. Whether they qualify as ‘Great Recordings of the Century’, though, is debatable. With her rounded, subtly coloured tone, Meyer spins an eloquent bel canto line in the slow movements. She responds vividly, too, to moments like the theatrical recitative at the end of No. 2’s Romanza, and tosses off Weber’s pyrotechnics with immaculate poise. What I missed, especially in the glittering finales, was a sense of fantasy and devil-may-care abandon, heard in performances by Emma Johnson (ASV) and Charles Neidich (DG). The rakish polonaise that ends the Second Concerto is too straitlaced here (punchier rhythms would have helped), while Meyer, typically, favours smoothness over playfulness in the finale of No. 1. Accompaniments from the Dresden Staatskapelle are expert, but rather on the solid side.
The performance I liked best was the arrangement for string orchestra (not by Weber) of the Clarinet Quintet, where Meyer conveys a feeling of enjoyment that I sometimes missed in the concertos. Richard Wigmore