ALBUM TITLE: Weber
WORKS: Clarinet Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Clarinet Concertino
PERFORMER: Karl-Heinz Steffens (clarinet); Bamberg SO; Bavarian State Philharmonic/Radoslaw Szulc
CATALOGUE NO: Tudor 7159
Most recordings of Weber’s three works for clarinet and orchestra manage to accommodate a further item. The classic EMI version by Sabine Meyer, for instance, includes an orchestral transcription of the Clarinet Quintet, as does the scarcely less fine account by the Swedish clarinettist Martin Fröst (BIS), while Michael Collins offers the Concertino for horn (see above). So you may feel short-changed by the present CD, which does without an additional item, particularly since the performances themselves are less than compelling. This is no reflection on the playing of Karl-Heinz Steffens, which is admirable throughout, but Radoslav Szulc fails to draw any drama or intensity out of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra’s contribution, and the end result is rather lacklustre. Take the First Concerto’s slow movement: the outer sections, with their hushed orchestral background, are quite beautifully done, but the middle section in the minor, where the orchestra takes a more decisive role, are seriously under-characterised; and the effect of the whole isn’t helped by a boomy recorded sound. Meyer is hard to beat in this repertoire: her tempos tend to be a touch slower than those taken by Collins, and especially Fröst, but she lends an irresistible jauntiness to moments like the polonaise finale of the Concerto No. 2.