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Jean Xavier Lefèvre (1763-1829)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 4, in B flat major (c. 1797) [25:52]
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 3, in E flat major (c. 1797) [19:19]
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 6, in B flat major (c. 1803) [18:39]
Eduard Brunner (clarinet)
Münchener Kammerorchester/Reinhard Goebel
rec. Bavaria Musikstudio, Munich, 24-26 April 2001. DDD
TUDOR 7098 [63:09]

Lefèvre was 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.

Glyn Pursglove

 

 



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