‘Classic’ in the
title of this CD needs to be understood as a reference to matters
of style and form, rather than status. The CD can perhaps be
seen as complementary to Leister and Bognár’s Romantic Sonatas
(also on Camerata), which includes works by Mendelssohn, Rossini
and Nielsen, amongst others.
there is no music here which has achieved ‘classic’ status –
or, indeed, is ever likely to. These are all decidedly minor
pieces. That isn’t to say, however, that they are by any means
without interest. It was really only at the very beginning of
the nineteenth century that sonatas began to be written for
the clarinet with any regularity. In the words of the booklet
notes by John A. Phillips, “the four composers featured in the
present recording, although occupying varying degrees of obscurity
in the great panorama of music history, represent the first
generation of composers willing to accord the clarinet a solo
role”. As such, the very least that one can say for the CD is
that it should be in every reference collection.
however, the quality of Karl Leister’s musicianship, this is
a recital which can very definitely be listened to for pleasure,
as well as for historical instruction. Leister was, for many
years, principal clarinettist of the Berlin Philharmonic under
Karajan; as a soloist he has played with conductors such as
Karajan, Kubelik, Jochum and many others; as a chamber-musician
he has worked with, to name but a few, the Berlin Soloists,
the Amadeus Quartet, Christoph Eschenbach and Gidon Kremer.
He has recorded for labels such as DG, Philips and Sony. This
wealth of experience, his familiarity with all the pillars of
the clarinet repertoire, is now brought to bear on these early
works. For all that it might have been fascinating to hear one
or two of these played on period instruments, Leister’s sense
of where these pieces were to lead, what was later going to
happen to music for the instrument, seems to give a particular
quality to his interpretations. Ferenc Bognár is a sensitive
and thoughtful partner throughout.
Dupuy’s Introduction and Polonaise is a charming piece, played
here with a very agreeable sense of conversational interplay
between the two musicians. Inspiration seems to flag from time
to time in the Grand Sonata by Bochsa (father of the
more famous composer and harpist Nicholas Charles Bochsa). Vanhal’s
Sonata, on the other hand, is a largely persuasive piece – even
if its final rondo is a bit of an anticlimax - in which Leister’s
control of the upper register is heard to particular advantage;
the adagio has warmth and the performance has an air of spontaneity.
Eberl was a friend of Mozart’s and it has not been unknown
for works of his to be wrongly attributed to the great man.
It is not surprising then that his sonata sometimes makes one
think of Mozart – though it is also the one of these four works
which seems most obviously to anticipate later romantic writing
for the clarinet.
to all with an interest in the clarinet repertoire.