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Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 1, in C minor, Op. 26 (1808) [19:31]
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 2, in E flat, Op. 57 (1810) [23:11]
Variations on a Theme from Alruna, for clarinet and orchestra in B flat, WoO 15 (1810) [6:58]
Eduard Brunner (clarinet)
Bamberger Symphoniker/Hans Stadlmair
rec. Konzerthalle, Bamberg; 25-27 January, 1997. DDD
TUDOR 7009 [49:59]

George Bernard Shaw described one of Spohr’s compositions as "a shining river of commonplaces, plagiarisms and reminiscences". His terms are fierce, and more than a little unfair, but they do contain - however intemperately - the truth that Spohr’s work is not generally marked by great originality or individuality. Certainly these two concertos for clarinet are enjoyable, relatively undemanding, listening but not over-rich in memorable melodies or strikingly individual musical moments.

When, at the age of 24, he came to write the first of the two concertos recorded here, Spohr had already written eight concertos for violin (on which instrument he was, of course, a great virtuoso) and several for such instrumental combinations as violin and cello and violin and harp. This concerto in C minor begins with an attractive and graceful slow introduction and the second subject of the first movement has about it a charming lyrical quality. The second movement adagio – in which the soloist is accompanied only by violins and cello – contains perhaps the loveliest of Spohr’s writing for the instrument. Brunner captures the beauty of this movement very well. The third movement heavily involves the wind instruments of the orchestra, and the players of the Bamberger Symphoniker do justice to Spohr’s writing. Just when one is expecting a rousing conclusion, the movement fades away to a quiet, evocative close.

Spohr’s second Clarinet Concerto was written for Germany’s first music festival in Frankenhausen, in the summer of 1810 and there is a good deal of celebratory and festive music in its opening movement. Trumpets and drums get a good work-out and flute and bassoon are foregrounded. The second movement adagio is, like that of the earlier concerto, in A flat major, a key of which Spohr was evidently very fond. The writing for the clarinet makes delightful use of the instrument’s lower register in some passages and elsewhere demands rapid runs and leaps from the soloist – all of which Brunner meets without apparent difficulty. The finale is marked ‘alla Polacca’ and begins with timpani and horns before the clarinettist enters. There is some technically very difficult writing for the soloist to negotiate in this third movement.

The variations on a duet - "Euer Liebreiz, eure Schönheit" - from one of Spohr’s operas (he wrote thirteen), Alruna, again demand much of the soloist’s technique; though Eduard Brunner certainly has the necessary instrumental certainty and control he doesn’t altogether persuade one that this is a piece of any enduring musical interest.

These are accomplished, professional performances of music which is not quite of the very highest order, though it certainly has its moments. I have enjoyed listening to Brunner’s Spohr; and no one would, I think, be likely to regret the purchase of this CD. If you already own one of the recordings of these concertos by Karl Leister (on Orfeo), Michael Collins (Hyperion) or Ernst Ottensamer (Naxos), then you can probably rest content with what you have.

Glyn Pursglove

 

 



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