born in Cressins, near Lausanne in Switzerland.
Displaying early musical talent, while
still a child he went to Paris to study
with Michel Yost (1754-1786). Yost was
one of the greatest clarinet players
of the time, himself Swiss-born, and
generally regarded as the founder of
the French clarinet school. Lefèvre’s
own career was rapidly successful. After
early work with the musicians of the
Royal French Guard, Lefèvre was
soon in demand as a soloist. By 1790
he was working across Europe – including
London. The following year he was made
first clarinet of the Paris Grand Opéra.
On the foundation of the Paris Conservatoire
in 1795, Lefèvre was one of the
earliest professors to be appointed.
In 1802 he published his Méthode
de Clarinette, a manual which was
widely translated and which continued
in use for over a hundred years. Lefèvre
also made a contribution to the physical
evolution of the clarinet since, at
a date around 1790, he added a sixth
key to his instrument. Lefèvre
was, in short, a major figure in the
history of the clarinet and this recording
of three of his six concertos deserves
a warm welcome, both because it helps
to make a phase of music history easier
to understand and because it contains
some attractive music well played. The
dates given above for the concertos
can only be approximate, precise information
as to date of composition being lost.
In all three of the
concertos recorded here the longest
movement is the opening allegro. That
of No. 4 makes considerable technical
demands on the soloist, with its sizeable
leaps and its rapid trills. The overall
effect is decidedly attractive and Walter
Labhart’s booklet notes are on the mark
when they observe that "the melodies
of [this] almost symphonic first movement
put one in mind of Mozart". So,
to some extent, does the more elegiac
writing in the central adagio. The polonaise
which closes the concerto is most striking
in some lavishly decorated passages
in G minor.
Concerto No. 3 also
makes considerable demands on the soloist
– Lefèvre himself probably gave
the first performances of all of these
concertos. The opening allegro calls
on the entire range of the instrument
and the closing rondo-allegretto features
some very rapid runs. In between is
a very brief, but very beautiful, adagio.
Concerto No. 6 is consistently graceful,
though its grace has warmth and wit
too, not least in the central movement
(‘Romance’), utterly classical in its
balance and charm.
These are pieces which
deserve to be better known and which
will surely appeal to any listener who
enjoys the high classical instrumental
tradition. Eduard Brunner is a fine
and versatile musician whose recordings
range from Stamitz, Mozart and Krommer
to Messiaen, Penderecki and Kancheli.
Here his unflamboyant virtuosity means
that he is altogether untroubled by
the technical demands of the music.
He brings out the music’s genuine poetry
in an attractively understated fashion
and the accompaniment, in the hands
of Reinhard Goebel, is intelligent and
sensitive. The recorded balance of soloist
and orchestra is good and clear.