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Karl Leister: Classic Sonatas for Clarinet
Charles BOCHSA (d. 1821)
Grand Sonata for Clarinet and Piano** (?1808) [26:52]
Johann Baptist VANHAL (1739-1813)
Sonata No. 3 in B flat major* (?1801) [14:30]
Jean Baptiste Edouard DUPUY (c. 1770-1822)
Introduction and Polonaise** (?1810) [5:59]
Anton EBERL (1765-1807)
Sonata in B flat major, Op.10 No. 2* (1800) [22:09]
Karl Leister (clarinet), Ferenc Bognár (piano)
rec.: Konservatoriumsaal, Feldkirch, Austria, 8-9 Feb 2003 (*),13-14 Feb 2004 (**). DDD
CAMERATA CM-28060 [69:30]

‘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.

Certainly 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.

Given, 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.

Recommended to all with an interest in the clarinet repertoire.

Glyn Pursglove



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