Weber Clarinet Concertos
COMPOSERS: Carl Maria von Weber
LABELS: MDG Scene
ALBUM TITLE: Weber Clarinet Concertos
WORKS: Clarinet Concertos nos 1 & 2; Concertino for Clarinet & Orchestra
PERFORMER: Martin Spangenberg (clarinet); Orchestra M18
CATALOGUE NO: MDG9011754
It was when Weber travelled to Munich in the spring of 1811 that he first met the clarinettist Heinrich Bärmann. Such was the success of the Concertino he immediately composed for Bärmann that the Bavarian King, Maximilian I, commissioned two further clarinet concertos from him, and Weber found himself swamped by requests for pieces from members of the court orchestra. As well as the two further clarinet concertos, he composed a bassoon concerto that’s not quite on the same level, though it has a fine slow movement featuring an extended passage with the soloist accompanied only by horns – an idea Weber took from the first of the clarinet concertos. And all his concerto slow movements, with their dramatic recitatives, benefit from his experience as an operatic composer.
Most clarinettists accept the revisions carried out by Bärmann but Martin Spangenberg keeps strictly to the letter of Weber’s score. He is a fine player, and there is much to admire in his performances, but the recessed orchestral sound, with the strings lacking in bite, hinders the music-making from taking wing.
No such reservation applies to the recording by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra – a superior ensemble to Spangenberg’s Orchestra M18. Peter Whelan and Alec Frank-Gemmill, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s principal bassoonist and horn player, make light of the prodigious difficulties of their respective concertos (in the Horn Concertino they include multiphonics, produced by singing into the instrument), and Maximiliano Martín gives an appropriately flamboyant account of the Clarinet Concertino and the Concerto No. 1. This is repertoire that has been well served on CD before, with particularly fine accounts of the clarinet works from Sabine Meyer (EMI) and Michael Collins (Linn), but this new version is as enjoyable as any.