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Georg Heinrich BACKOFEN (1768-1830)
Clarinet Concerto in B flat major Op. 3
(1796-1816) [
Clarinet Concerto in E flat major Op. 16 (1796-1816) [20:42]
Clarinet Concerto in E flat major Op. 24 (1796-1816) [24:06]
Dieter Klöcker (clarinet)
SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslauten/Johannes Moesus
rec. SWR Kaiserslauten, 29 Mar-2 Apr, 26-29 Apr 2004
CPO 777 065-2 [68:57]



Backofen is certainly an obscure figure to most music-lovers. He was born in Durlach, Germany and aside from taking to his musical studies like a duck to water also proved a talented draughtsman and a gifted linguist. Influenced by the Paris-based 19th century clarinet master Xavier Lefèvre he wrote a number of works for clarinet. Works for harp also feature in his catalogue. He was recognised in the Gotha orchestra as an outstanding player of clarinet, basset-horn and harp. After Gotha his final move was to the Darmstadt orchestra as part of the Court of Hesse. Ever the astute entrepreneur he there established a wind instrument factory.

The language of these three concertos is strikingly Mozartian at times (e.g. Jupiter Symphony in the first and last movements of opp. 3 and 16). All the usual delightful clarinet virtues appear in the golden middle movement of Op. 3, the finale of which holds a few surprises. These include some almost Greek folksy trills, bubbles and other endearments. The solo part of Op. 16 suggests a cheeky Neapolitan street singer. Some of the more animated writing looks forward to Rossini's overtures ... and there is something of a facial resemblance too. Op. 24 is ushered in by Beethovenian funereal writing before Backofen's accustomed bel canto nonchalance steps up to the line disarming and without a care in the world. The Andante is in this one case rather more perfunctory than the earlier middle movements.

Klöcker is a graceful guide and a luminous-toned exponent. His orchestra is the SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslauten which is stylishly conducted by Johannes Moesus. This is by no means a luxury band and a certain thinness can sometimes be noted.  That said, attention quite naturally fixes on the solo and there is plenty there to distract and beguile.

Masterworks? Well, no but they are eminently entertaining and touching and administer a few surprises along the way.

Rob Barnett






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