STAMITZ, C.: Clarinet Concertos, Vol. 2 (Kalman Berkes/ Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia) (Naxos: 8.554339)
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Clarinet ConcertosVol. 2
Among the best-known orchestral works of Carl Philip Stamitz (1745-1801)are the clarinet concertos which rank not only among the earliest concertos forthe instrument but also among the finest of any concertos by Mozart'scontemporaries. Comparatively little is known about the origin of these worksin spite of their obvious historical and musical importance. The latestresearch has narrowed the composition date of the eight authentic works toaround the years 1771-1776 when Stamitz was living in Paris.
Stamitz would have been well acquainted with the clarinet prior to hismove to Paris in 1770 as the Mannheim court orchestra, of which he had been amember for several years, was among the first to include clarinets among itsforces. During the 1760s the instrument underwent a number of importantmodifications which improved its tonal flexibility and intonation. From thispoint on composers began to show a greater level of interest in writing for theinstrument but it was the popularity of Carl Stamitz's concertos, coupled withthe emergence of virtuoso exponents of the 'new' instrument, which seems tohave turned the tide. During the period 1760-1771 not one single clarinetconcerto was advertised for sale in the Breitkopf Catalogue, the largest andmost important 18th century catalogue of printed and manuscript music. Thefirst, a work by Starck, appeared in Supplement VII (1771) but then no furtherworks appeared for nine years until three of Stamitz's concertos were listed inSupplement XIV (1781). Between 1782 and 1784, however, seven concertos appearedin Supplement XV alone comprising works by various composers were advertisedthe following year.
Stamitz's early experience of the clarinet was consolidated furtherthrough his friendship with the great Bohemian clarinet virtuoso Johann JosephBeer (1744-1811) whom he met in Paris. Their professional association, similarin many ways to that of Mozart and Stadler, resulted not only in a number ofjoint performances at the Concerts spirituels but also in a successionof concertos and chamber works which were composed for Beer's use Beer'sperformance of one of Carl Stamitz's clarinet concertos on 24th December, 1771is the first documented performance of a clarinet concerto in Paris. WhileBeer's unrivalled technical command of the five?¡-keyed clarinet undoubtedlyinfluenced the way in which Stamitz wrote for it, certain idiomatic devicessuch as exaggerated intervallic leaps and broken-chord passage work can befound in the works of pioneering figures such as Pokorny. Their overall musicalquality, however, owes far less to the virtuosity of the solo writing than toStamitz's elegant melodic style, structural subtlety and orchestral flair.
In 1938 Helmut Boese made a score of Concerto No. 7 in E flatmajor (in some numbering systems No. 8) based on a set of manuscript parts -the sole-surviving copy of the work - preserved in the Landesbibliothek inDarmstadt. This material was destroyed in 1945 but its role in the work'spreservation is recognized in the nickname Darmstadter. On the basis ofthe work's orchestral treatment Boese postulated that it may have been writtenin the 1760s while Stamitz was a member of the Mannheim court orchestra. Anumber of things argue strongly against this including Stamitz's employment ofmature classical phraseology and, not least the presence of a rondo finalewhich did not come into vogue until the early 1770s. But overall, the worksimply does not sound like a 'pre-classical' concerto. Its broad symphonicwriting is classical in conception and construction; the wind instruments aredeployed with great skill and subtlety; and the orchestra is entrusted withimportant thematic material during the solo sections. An example of Stamitz'sstructural flexibility can be heard in the preparation for the recapitulationwhen he reintroduces the solo instrument in what it is otherwise aretransitional ritornello. It is a lovely touch and one which reinforcesthe previous unexpected use of new thematic material in the second solo. Theopening of the Adagio is also striking with the clarinet holding a long,sustained note while the strings play the principal theme; this process isrepeated and then the clarinet gently unfolds and develops the material over abeautifully transparent accompaniment. A perky Rondo follows whosepervasive good humour is only momentarily darkened during the minore episode.
As in the case of the previous work a copy of Concerto No. 8 in Bflat major (No. 9) was also preserved in Darmstadt until the last year of theWar, hence the nickname 2. Darmstadter. More importantly it waspublished in Paris by Sieber as the sixth of a group of six Stamitz clarinetconcertos. Boese also believed that this concerto dated from the composer'sMannheim years but perhaps with a little more justification on this occasion.
The symphonic writing in the opening movement is thoroughly modern but theorchestra is deployed in a rather less enterprising manner in the accompanimentof the solo instrument than in the E flat major Concerto. The secondmovement, too, has a rather old-fashioned cast to it both structurally and interms of its musical syntax although the clarinet writing is expressive andidiomatic. While the choice of a Rondo finale is modern, the Tempo diminuetto marking is less so unless, of course, Stamitz was making a politenod in the direction of his Parisian audiences. As one would expect, theepisodes are more lightly scored than the rondo theme itself but in thisinstance the style of accompaniment is surprisingly thin, almost in the mannerof the 'galant' concerto. This, along with a number of other structuralelements in the first two movements, may be an indication that the workpredates Concerto No. 7.
Concerto No. 11 in E flat major was not issued by Sieber and only one manuscriptcopy, preserved in the Thurn und Taxis Hofbibliothek in Regensburg, has comedown to us. Like the earlier concertos on this recording the work opens with abroad, leisurely orchestral ritornello written in the best traditions ofhis Mannheim colleagues. Once again Stamitz reserves the later stages of themovement for structural experimentation. He introduces the second solo,analogous to the development section in a sonata movement, with new thematicmaterial, clearly a favourite device as he does so in a number of hisconcertos. This material is deflected quietly into the minor and then allowedto unfold. Although the music modulates back to the tonic and thereafterbehaves in a tonally orthodox fashion, Stamitz does not reintroduce the openingtheme. This technique is quite common in the symphony but less so in theconcerto of the period. The second movement is aptly titled Aria andindeed it is not only reminiscent of opera in its ravishing cantilena forthe clarinet but also in its strophic-like structure. The accompaniment issensitive and varied throughout and the inclusion of a pair of horns, usedsparingly by Stamitz, adds a richness and intensity to the orchestral palette.
The German musicologist Engels styled the finale Rondo alla Scherzo - atitle also adopted by Newhill - although its original designation was Rondoalla Schas (i.e. Chasse). This jaunty hunting movement, which attimes reminds one of Dittersdorf's Actaeon Symphony (Naxos 8.553368),includes a quotation of the old Prussian hunting call known as the GrosseHalali. Haydn uses fragments of the same call in the chorus Hort daslaute Geton in his oratorio The Seasons.