WEBER: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (Ernst Ottensamer/ Johannes Wildner/ Rudolf Hentsel/ Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550378)
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Carl Maria van Weber (1786 - 1826)
Clarinet Concerto No.1 in F Minor, Op. 73 (J. 109)
Clarinet Concerto No.2 in E Flat Major,Op. 74 (J.114)
Clarinet Concertino in E Flat Major, Op.
It was natural that there should be anelement of the operatic in the music of Weber. The composer of the first greatRomantic German opera, Der Freischu??tz, spent much of his childhood withthe peripatetic theatre company directed by his father, Franz Anton Weber,uncle of Mozart's wife Constanze and, like his brother, Constanze's Father, atone time a member of the famous Mannheim orchestra. At the time of Weber'sbirth his father was still in the service of the Bishop of Lubeck and duringthe course of an extended visit to Vienna had taken a second wife, an actressand singer, who became an important member of the family theatre companyestablished in 1788.
Weber's musical gifts were fostered byhis father, who saw in his youngest son the possibility of a second Mozart.
Travel brought the chance of varied if inconsistent study, in Salzburg withMichael Haydn and elsewhere with musicians of lesser ability. His second operawas performed in Freiberg in 1800, followed by a third in Augsburg in 1803.
Lessons with the Abbe Vogler led to a position as Kapellmeister in Breslau in1804, brought to a premature end through the hostility of musicians longestablished in the city and through the accidental drinking of engraving acid,left by his father in a wine-bottle.
A brief and idyllic period in the serviceof Duke Eugen of W??rttemberg-?ûls at Karlsruhe was followed by three years assecretary to Duke Ludwig of Wurttemberg, a younger brother of the reigningDuke. The financial dealings of his father, who had joined him there, led toimprisonment and expulsion, and a return to a career as an active musician, atfirst mainly as a pianist, appearing in the principal cities of Germany. Ashort stay in Berlin proved fruitful, before his appointment to the opera inPrague in 1813. In 1817 he was invited to Dresden, where it was hoped he wouldestablish German opera, although the first performance of Der Freisch??tz
was given in Berlin in 1821. While the rival Italian opera in Dresden continuedto cause Weber trouble, he was invited to write an opera for Vienna. Euryanthe,described as a grand heroic-Romantic opera, with a libretto by theblue-stocking authoress of Schubert's Rosamunde, had a mixed reception.
In spite of deteriorating health, theresult of tuberculosis, Weber accepted a commission from Covent Garden for anEnglish opera, Oberon, which was first performed there in April 1826under the direction of the composer. A pioneer in the use of the conductor'sbaton, his first appearance with this potential weapon caused initial alarmamong English musicians at his possibly aggressive intentions. The Englishweather could only fur1her damage his health and he died during the night of4th June on the eve of his intended departure for Germany.
Weber's achievement was both considerableand influential. In German opera he had opened a new and rich vein thatsubsequent composers were to explore: as an orchestrator he demonstrated newpossibilities, particularly in the handling of wind instruments, as a conductorand director of performances he instituted a number of reforms, as he had firstattempted as an adolescent Kapellmeister in Breslau. In style his music followsclassical principles of clarity, with a particular lyrical facility shown bothin his operas and his instrumental and vocal compositions
The three concertos for clarinet werewritten in 1811 for the Munich clarinettist Heinrich Barmann, who had served asa Prussian army bandsman at Potsdam, before joining the Munich orchestra, wherethe earlier traditions of Mannheim were continued. Weber had met Barmann atDarmstadt, during the course of a concer1tourthat then took him to Munich.
There the first clarinet concerto, the Concertino, Opus 26 (J. 109), was animmediate success, allowing full scope for the soloist's ten-key instrument.
The two concertos, Opus 73 (J. 114) and Opus 74 (J. 118), were commissioned bythe King, Maximilian I of Bavaria, who had been greatly pleased by theConcertino. The musicians of the orchestra, it seems, were quick to add theirown requests for concertos, the result of which was the Bassoon Concerto. The ClarinetConcertos served Weber and Barmann on a subsequent tour that took them toPrague and finally to Berlin.
The Clarinet Concertino opens withan introductory Adagio leading to a theme and variations and a final Allegro, aform well suited to Weber's style of composition. The first of the twoconcertos, in three movements, is introduced by a gentle foreshadowing of theprincipal theme by cellos and double basses, before it is introduced by thefull orchestra, leading to the entry of the solo clarinet with a theme of itsown, announced with the necessary panache. The slow movement is a lyricalAdagio and is followed by a final rondo, its opening and principal theme anopportunity for a display of technical dexterity on the part of the soloist.
The second concerto frames a central Romanza, which has its own distinctlyoperatic features, including a passage of recitative, between a sonata-formfirst movement and a final movement in the rhythm of a Polish dance.
Ernst Ottensamer was born in 1955 atWallern in Upper Austria and studied the clarinet at the Bruckner Conservatoryin Linz, before moving to Vienna Musikhochschule, where he completed hisstudies in 1979. He first played with the Vienna State Opera and Vienna PhilharmonicOrchestra in 1978, before becoming a principal clarinettist in 1983. Since 1986he has also been a member of the teaching staff of the Vienna Musikhochschule.
Ernst Ottensamer enjoys a busy career as a founder-member of the Vienna WindEnsemble, with which he has undertaken more than 150 engagements at home andabroad. He has appeared as a soloist with a number of leading orchestras inVienna and performed the Weber E flat Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic aspart of the 1990 Salzburg Easter Festival.
Czecho-Slovak State PhilharmonicOrchestra (Kosice)
The East Slovakian town of Kosice boastsa long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that onceprovided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relativelyrecent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha.
Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislavslovak, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestrahas toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part inthe Kosice Musical Spring and the Kosice International Organ Festival.
For Marco Polo the orchestra has made thefirst compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raft.
Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for itscompetence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague, andfor its willingness to undertake repertoire of this kind without condescension.
The orchestra has contributed several successful volumes to the completecompact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.
Johannes Wildner was born in the Austrianresort of M??rzzuschlag in 1956 and studied violin and conducting, taking hisdiploma at the Vienna Musikhochschule and proceeding to a