About this Recording
8.579010 - HINDEMITH, P. / VAN DER ROOST, J.: Clarinet Concertos / STRAUSS, R.: Romanze (Vanoosthuyse, Central Aichi Symphony, Rosales)

Paul Hindemith (1895−1963): Clarinet Concerto

Born in Frankfurt in 1895, the son of a house-painter, Paul Hindemith studied the violin privately with teachers from the Hoch Conservatory before being admitted to that institution with a free place at the age of thirteen. By 1915 he was playing second violin in his teacher Adolf Rebner’s quartet and had a place in the opera orchestra, of which he became leader in the same year. His father was killed in the war and Hindemith himself spent some time from 1917 as a member of a regimental band, returning after the war to the Rebner Quartet and the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra. At the same time he was making his name as a composer of particular originality, striving to bring about a revolution in concert-going with his concept of Gebrauchsmusik (functional or utility music), and devoting much of his energy to the promotion of new music, in particular at the Donaueschingen Festival. Having changed from violin to viola, he formed the Amar-Hindemith Quartet in 1921, an ensemble that won considerable distinction for its performances of new music.

In 1927 Hindemith was appointed professor of composition at the Berlin Musikhochschule, two years later disbanding the quartet—to which he could no longer give time—and instead performing in a string trio with Josef Wolfsthal, (replaced on his death by Szymon Goldberg) and the cellist Emanuel Feuermann. He was also enjoying a career as a viola soloist. The political events of 1933 brought no immediate change in his circumstances and it seemed that he might even be accepted by the National Socialist Party as a true German composer, in spite of his openly expressed antipathy to the new regime. Matters turned out very differently, however.

In 1932 the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler invited Hindemith to write a Philharmonic Concerto to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Two years later came the Mathis der Maler Symphony, a composition that gave a foretaste of Hindemith’s new opera Mathis der Maler, and this too was performed under Furtwängler with some success. In the same year, however, the National Socialist Party condemned Hindemith’s music. Furtwängler, in a famous article in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, defended the freedom of the artist and the political interference that prevented the staging in Berlin of the opera Mathis der Maler and led him to resign from his positions with the Philharmonic and the Berlin Opera. Goebbels now saw fit to describe Hindemith as an atonaler Geräuschemacher (atonal noise-maker). To the Nazis he was, in fact, nicht tragbar, persona non grata. In 1935 he was given leave from his position at the Musikhochschule, which he spent visiting America and spending time in Turkey, where he established the Konservatuar in Ankara and devised a national plan for music education. In 1937 he finally resigned from his post in Berlin, moving first to Switzerland and then to the United States, where, after other teaching jobs, he was finally appointed professor of theory at Yale, becoming an American citizen in 1946. An appointment at the University of Zürich brought him to Europe again after the war and he finally settled in Switzerland, although his death took place in a hospital in his native Frankfurt in 1963.

As a composer Hindemith was very prolific, able to write music very quickly, often responding to the immediate demands of performers or circumstances. His theories on the craft of composition led to idiosyncratic teaching and to the cultivation of a tonal and contrapuntal style that is highly characteristic, if less effective in the hands of his followers.

Hindemith’s Clarinet Concerto was written in 1947 in response to a commission from the clarinettist Benny Goodman, to whom the work is dedicated. Goodman gave the first performance in Philadelphia in 1950, with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. Scored for piccolo, pairs of flutes, oboes, horns trumpets and trombones, timpani, percussion and strings with a solo A clarinet, the concerto has elements of the neoclassical in its chosen forms. The first movement is in broadly Sonata-Allegro form, followed by a scherzo, a slow movement of variations and a final lively rondo.

Keith Anderson

Jan Van der Roost (b. 1956): Clarinet Concerto

This two-movement work for clarinet and orchestra was commissioned by Musica Reservata vof, Belgium, and is dedicated to Eddy Vanoosthuyse, a good colleague and friend of the composer. The successful world première took place on 10th December, 2008 in Salt Lake City (USA), performed by the Utah Philharmonia, and under the baton of Robert Baldwin with the dedicatee as the soloist. Subsequently, the work was put to one side due to the hectic schedules of composer and performer, until the current recording was made in 2015 during the same week as the work’s Japanese première. This is Jan van der Roost’s second concert work for clarinet, following on from his Concerto Doppio for two clarinets and string orchestra.

The first movement, Doloroso e contemplativo, conveys the serious side of the clarinet and therefore features hardly any virtuosity or spectacle—on the contrary. The colourful orchestration woven around the solo part is not mere accompaniment, but rather an equal musical partner with the soloist, creating a delicate musical framework. A mysterious introduction leads into the first orchestral climax, after which the soloist enters with fragmented musical ideas which then become longer melodic lines.

The second movement, Giocoso e con bravura, focuses on the virtuosic—and almost acrobatic—side of the instrument. Exceptional dexterity is required of the soloist as the clarinet is asked to sing, weep and joke. The instrument’s versatile palette is extensively demonstrated, and once again the orchestral players are also given an opportunity to shine. The last word, however, is handed over to the clarinet: after a robust orchestral tutti, the soloist concludes the work with three short pianissimo notes—as if he subtly wants to have his final say. Following the cornucopia of notes that he has conjured out of his instrument, this modest conclusion is a surprising ending to the work, in which the composer’s love for this great instrument is clearly illustrated.

Jan Van der Roost

Richard Strauss (1864−1949): Romanze in E flat for clarinet and orchestra

Born in 1864 in Munich, Richard Strauss was the son of a distinguished horn-player, Franz Joseph Strauss, and of Josephine Pschorr, a member of a well-to-do brewing family seventeen years her husband’s junior. Richard Strauss had a sound general education and was able to study music under leading musicians in Munich. Even as a schoolboy he had enjoyed some success as a composer, and by the age of 21 he had embarked on a career as assistant conductor of the well-known orchestra at Meiningen under Liszt’s former son-in-law, Hans von Bülow, whom Strauss soon succeeded. He was to continue in a distinguished career as a conductor and as a composer, at first with a series of symphonic poems and then with a concentration on opera, not least in his collaboration with Hugo von Hoffmannsthal.

In 1874 Strauss entered the Ludwigsgymnasium, where he was to continue as a pupil until 1882. As a schoolboy he showed remarkable musical precocity, assisted by the opportunities offered through his father and his father’s associates. The varied compositions of his schooldays include a Romanze in E flat for clarinet and orchestra, written in 1879, when Strauss was fifteen. In a letter to his friend Ludwig Thuille he expressed his own satisfaction with the piece, while listing the other works on which he was busy at the time. In his ambitious list of opus numbers, continuing up to Opus 30, until Strauss abandoned it for a more definitive list of compositions, the Romanze is Op. 27. Written in a traditional style, it is a work of great charm, remarkable not only as a useful element in solo clarinet repertoire but also as the achievement of a fifteen-year-old.

Keith Anderson

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