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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



RECORD OF THE MONTH

Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Grand Duo Concertant for clarinet and pianoforte in E flat major
Seven Variations for clarinet and pianoforte on a theme of Weber’s opera
Silvana in B flat major
Ferdinand RIES (1784-1838)

Sonata for clarinet and pianoforte in G minor
Pierre-André Taillard (clarinet)
Edoardo Torbianelli (pianoforte)
Recorded at Accademia Bartolomeo Cristofori, Florence, October 2001
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 905254 [56:52]



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First let me quote from the booklet cover blurb because it is relevant: "The timbre of the clarinet is often considered as the epitome of the romantic sound. But it is only when one hears the period clarinet of the early nineteenth century that it becomes possible to appreciate the full fascination of the instrument. In combination with the outstanding Viennese fortepianos of the time, it produces hitherto unheard-of blends of tone-colour." True, the exquisitely musical playing of Pierre-André Taillard – his flawless technique and control (with very little of the breathing sounds [except in the variations] that mar so many woodwind chamber music recordings) and sensitivity of expression make this recital a true pleasure. He is given robust and very sympathetic support by Edoardo Torbianelli. The steeliness of the fortepiano may at first seem a little disconcerting but it forms a splendid foil to the lyricism of the clarinet.

The brilliant and technically demanding Weber Grand Duo Concertant was composed in 1815 (the Andante and Rondo) and the first movement in 1816. It was Weber’s last work for the clarinet. The work is a dialogue of equals for both instruments. The opening Allegro with its familiar tune is sometimes lively and bright, sometimes wistfully yearning. The Andante has the piano treading a slow march with long held melancholy chords on the clarinet before the piano’s voice becomes increasingly passionate, even operatic/melodramatic and the clarinet plaintive – all very theatrical but most effective. The final Rondo allows the players’ virtuoso capabilities full rein in the movement of light and shadow.

Weber’s ‘Seven Variations for clarinet and pianoforte on a theme of Weber’s opera Silvana in B flat minor’ is an earlier work, written in just one day – 14 December 1811 - in Prague, for the famous clarinet virtuoso Heinrich Baermann. The theme, also used by Weber for a set of violin variations, is taken from the clarinet motif of the aria, "Wehe mir, es ist geschehen". It juxtaposes a folk-song style, tenderness, fire and solemnity with great tunefulness.

The real discovery for this reviewer has been the Sonata of Ferdinand Ries. Ries was a pupil of and was much influenced by Beethoven. In fact Beethoven was of the opinion that Ries imitated him too much. Robert Schumann felt that Ries was a composer "whose remarkable originality was only overshadowed by that of Beethoven adding that he thought many of Ries’s works occupied a "beautiful summit". Schumann also thought he took a "sombre, discontented Byronic view of the world." Byronic indeed, for here we have a dramatic, nay melodramatic sonata, assertive and powerful, wild and passionate but not without lyricism (the lovely slow movement is particularly noteworthy). Like, the Weber works, its generous melodies and bravura virtuoso pages, with many sinuous lines for the clarinet and fiery bombastic and thrilling trill passages for the piano, impress strongly.

Sparkling performances and a thrilling Ries sonata that has been a revelation for this reviewer add up to an irresistible recital.

Ian Lace



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