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Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Concertino in E flat, J109 Op 26 (1811) [9.16]
Clarinet Concerto #1 in f, J114 Op 73 (1811) [21.02]
Clarinet Concerto #2 in Eb, J118 Op 74 (1811) [22.16]
Clarinet Quintet in Bb, J182 Op 34 (1815) [5.46]
Sabine Meyer, clarinet
Staatskapelle Dresden/Herbert Blomstedt (concertos)
Württembergisches Kammerorchester, Heilbron/Jörg Faerber (quintet and concertino)
Recorded at the Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany, September 1985 (concertos)
Recorded at Kirche auf der Karlshöhe, Ludwigsburg, Germany, November 1984
Notes in English, Deutsch, Français. 8-page catalogue of EMI GROTC recordings.


Comparison recording: Eduard Brunner, clarinet; Bamberger Symphoniker/Oleg Caetani. Orfeo C067831 A (Opp 26, 73, 74) 1983

In these concertos Weber’s musical style strikes me as just about halfway between Beethoven and Verdi, and these concertos owe virtually nothing to Mozart; while the Quintet sounds at times like a collaboration between Mozart and Beethoven. The opening of the Second Concerto is reminiscent of Paganini, and the extreme jumps in range in the clarinet part certainly demand the greatest virtuosity from the player. The slow movements to the Quintet and the Second Concerto have some of the quality of operatic scenes — yearning, romantic solos. The final movements of both concertos have a jauntiness of phrase reminiscent of Telemann. That’s right, in spite of the opus numbers, all of these works were produced in the same year, 1811, the second two on commission from the King of Bavaria, and all were intended for the clarinettist Heinrich Bärman. Weber actually began work on the Quintet the same year, but it wasn’t completed until four years later.

This artist’s command of the clarinet is stunning from the first notes of this disk. It takes skill and courage to utilise the clarinet’s "metallic" range as Ms. Meyer does, producing a thrillingly dramatic tonal, textural, and dynamic sound, as well as very many very sweet sounds when called for. Recording is excellent, orchestral backup is enthusiastic, and the result is almost great music. Certainly these works have never sounded so good, so important.

The Brunner recording utilises faster tempi throughout which give more urgency, higher energy, more of a sense of sturm und drang, more high brass sound to the orchestral tuttis, contrasting with a slightly more mellow, less "metallic" approach to the solos. Orchestra is slightly more forward. Brunner observes a substantial cut in the slow movement of the Concerto #1.

Both disks are excellent; the choice is on style not on quality, and the fact that on the Meyer disk you get the Clarinet Quintet — orchestrated — as a bonus, and a valuable bonus it is indeed, since some will find it the best music on the disk.

Paul Shoemaker

see also review by Christopher Howell

Great Recordings of the Century


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