About this Recording
8.550378 - WEBER: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 and 2

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. 26 (J.118)

It was natural that there should be an element of the operatic in the music of Weber. The composer of the first great Romantic German opera, Der Freischuütz, spent much of his childhood with the peripatetic theatre company directed by his father, Franz Anton Weber, uncle of Mozart's wife Constanze and, like his brother, Constanze's Father, at one time a member of the famous Mannheim orchestra. At the time of Weber's birth his father was still in the service of the Bishop of Lubeck and during the course of an extended visit to Vienna had taken a second wife, an actress and singer, who became an important member of the family theatre company established in 1788.

Weber's musical gifts were fostered by his father, who saw in his youngest son the possibility of a second Mozart. Travel brought the chance of varied if inconsistent study, in Salzburg with Michael Haydn and elsewhere with musicians of lesser ability. His second opera was 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 in 1804, brought to a premature end through the hostility of musicians long established 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 service of Duke Eugen of Württemberg-Öls at Karlsruhe was followed by three years as secretary to Duke Ludwig of Wurttemberg, a younger brother of the reigning Duke. The financial dealings of his father, who had joined him there, led to imprisonment and expulsion, and a return to a career as an active musician, at first mainly as a pianist, appearing in the principal cities of Germany. A short stay in Berlin proved fruitful, before his appointment to the opera in Prague in 1813. In 1817 he was invited to Dresden, where it was hoped he would establish German opera, although the first performance of Der Freischütz was given in Berlin in 1821. While the rival Italian opera in Dresden continued to cause Weber trouble, he was invited to write an opera for Vienna. Euryanthe, described as a grand heroic-Romantic opera, with a libretto by the blue-stocking authoress of Schubert's Rosamunde, had a mixed reception.

In spite of deteriorating health, the result of tuberculosis, Weber accepted a commission from Covent Garden for an English opera, Oberon, which was first performed there in April 1826 under the direction of the composer. A pioneer in the use of the conductor's baton, his first appearance with this potential weapon caused initial alarm among English musicians at his possibly aggressive intentions. The English weather could only fur1her damage his health and he died during the night of 4th June on the eve of his intended departure for Germany.

Weber's achievement was both considerable and influential. In German opera he had opened a new and rich vein that subsequent composers were to explore: as an orchestrator he demonstrated new possibilities, particularly in the handling of wind instruments, as a conductor and director of performances he instituted a number of reforms, as he had first attempted as an adolescent Kapellmeister in Breslau. In style his music follows classical principles of clarity, with a particular lyrical facility shown both in his operas and his instrumental and vocal compositions

The three concertos for clarinet were written in 1811 for the Munich clarinettist Heinrich Bärmann, who had served as a Prussian army bandsman at Potsdam, before joining the Munich orchestra, where the earlier traditions of Mannheim were continued. Weber had met Bärmann at Darmstadt, during the course of a concer1tourthat then took him to Munich. There the first clarinet concerto, the Concertino, Opus 26 (J. 109), was an immediate 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 by the King, Maximilian I of Bavaria, who had been greatly pleased by the Concertino. The musicians of the orchestra, it seems, were quick to add their own requests for concertos, the result of which was the Bassoon Concerto. The Clarinet Concertos served Weber and Bärmann on a subsequent tour that took them to Prague and finally to Berlin.

The Clarinet Concertino opens with an introductory Adagio leading to a theme and variations and a final Allegro, a form well suited to Weber's style of composition. The first of the two concertos, in three movements, is introduced by a gentle foreshadowing of the principal theme by cellos and double basses, before it is introduced by the full orchestra, leading to the entry of the solo clarinet with a theme of its own, announced with the necessary panache. The slow movement is a lyrical Adagio and is followed by a final rondo, its opening and principal theme an opportunity for a display of technical dexterity on the part of the soloist. The second concerto frames a central Romanza, which has its own distinctly operatic features, including a passage of recitative, between a sonata-form first movement and a final movement in the rhythm of a Polish dance.

Ernst Ottensamer
Ernst Ottensamer was born in 1955 at Wallern in Upper Austria and studied the clarinet at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz, before moving to Vienna Musikhochschule, where he completed his studies in 1979. He first played with the Vienna State Opera and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1978, before becoming a principal clarinettist in 1983. Since 1986 he 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 Wind Ensemble, with which he has undertaken more than 150 engagements at home and abroad. He has appeared as a soloist with a number of leading orchestras in Vienna and performed the Weber E flat Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic as part of the 1990 Salzburg Easter Festival.

Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)
The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav slovak, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ Festival.

For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raft. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague, and for its willingness to undertake repertoire of this kind without condescension. The orchestra has contributed several successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.

Johannes Wildner
Johannes Wildner was born in the Austrian resort of Mürzzuschlag in 1956 and studied violin and conducting, taking his diploma at the Vienna Musikhochschule and proceeding to a doctorate in musicology. A member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Johannes Wildner has toured widely as leader of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra Johann Strauss Ensemble and of the Vienna Mozart Academy. As a conductor he has directed the Orchestra Sinfonica dell'Emilia Romagna Arturo Toscanini, the Budapest State Opera Orchestra, the Silesian Philharmonic and the Malmo Symphony Orchestra. He conducted performances of the Vienna Volksoper in the autumn of 1989 and has been invited to Japan, China, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Italy.

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