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ClassicsOnline Home » WEBER: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
"Ernst Offensamer is the excellent soloist in performances of Weber's two jolly Clarinet Concertos and Concertino, ably supported by the Czech State Philharmonic under Johannes Wildner. Great fun, and at a bargain price."
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 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 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
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 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.
Last Albums Viewed
WEBER: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 and 2