a great deal of detail is available on the life of Johann Sobeck,
but the booklet notes outline pretty much all of the highlights.
Born in Luditz near Karlsbad, he was a clarinet virtuoso, studying
that instrument and composition at the Prague Conservatory.
He did a variety of concert tours, was held in high regard as
a teacher, and held the post of principal clarinettist at the
Royal Theatre in Hanover for a good fifty years.
of Sobeck’s compositional work has been lost, and of what remains
there is of course a great deal for the clarinet. There are
four wind quintets in total, which makes me wonder why the remaining
20 minutes on this CD couldn’t have been filled with the 1897
fourth quintet. The three on this disc are all in a conventional
four movement pattern and of consistent 20 minute length, which
is also usual for this period. Of the excursions into musical
experiment which Sobeck employs, few are likely to stand out
to the casual listener – the overall impression I get from the
earlier opus numbers is an irrepressible good humour and joie
de vivre which even seems to carry over to the slower movements.
Sobeck’s expertise as a wind player is apparent in his effortless
combination of colour and voicing, the instruments being treated
with perfectly idiomatic writing. The upper winds and bassoon
all receive plenty of virtuoso passagework, and even the more
restricted horn is provided with its fair share of melodic contribution.
As the music unfolds you also get an impression of Sobeck’s
inventiveness. There is no transitional chugging, and plenty
of variety in the harmonic and thematic landscape, and no repetitious
padding anywhere to be heard.
minor tonality of Quintet op.14 reaches a little deeper
than the other two, and touches of melancholy affect the more
sparing writing in movements such as the second Andante piu
tosto/Adagio. Even here however, wit and charm are never
very far away, and there are some nice little syncopated kicks
in the accompaniment in the latter part of the movement, which
runs directly into the third Scherzino/Presto.
The members of the
Albert Schweitzer Quintett are skilled advocates of this music,
and the recorded sound is well up to CPO’s high standards. This
is repertoire which is full of fun and which deserves recognition.
All concerned are to be congratulated on a fine production.