Jean Xavier LEFEVRE (1763-1829)
Clarinet Quartet V in E flat [15:45]
Clarinet Quartet VI in B flat [16:30]
Clarinet Sonata in B flat, op.12 no.1 (c.1805) [9:20]
Clarinet Sonata in E flat, op.12 no.2 (c.1805) [10:08]
Clarinet Sonata in B flat, op.12 no.3 (c.1805) [8:40]
Eduard Brunner (clarinet)
Ana Chumachenco (violin); Hariolf Schlichtig (viola); Wen-Sinn Yang (cello); Adrian Oetiker (piano)
rec. Musikhochschule, Munich, March-June 2005 (Quartets), January 2007 (Sonatas). DDD
TUDOR 7150 [61:05]
As the fine essay in the CD booklet explains, Lefèvre was a very conservative composer; in some respects he was less a composer than a clarinettist and pedagogue who wrote music to elaborate his teachings. In fact, he retired from composing well before he turned fifty, already having said what he wanted to say, with a body of works that included seven clarinet concertos, 21 clarinet sonatas, and over 150 clarinet duos, mostly for two clarinets.
Lefèvre's innovations lay in technique, rather than music. It would be wrong, therefore, to come to this disc expecting to hear the fireworks associated with Weber, for example. What you get instead are a series of expressive, graceful, beautifully crafted miniatures - most of the individual movements are only two or three minutes long, with the rondo finale of the op. 12 no.1 Sonata lasting a little over a minute. There is elegance, wistfulness, restraint and humour in abundance, all in accordance with the principles Lefèvre expounded in his widely published and far-reaching method.
The Clarinet Quartets are the more substantial works. Lefèvre wrote them for clarinet, violin, viola and, rather quaintly, basso - here supplied by Wen-Sinn Yang's able cello. They are reminiscent of those of Krommer and Crusell, and - allowing for the change of instrument - the flute quartets of Hoffmeister, all of whom are approximate contemporaries - Crusell was in fact a pupil of Lefèvre's, such was the latter's reputation.
The op. 12 works were published as Three Grand Sonatas around 1805, and were composed for clarinet and, again, continuo, played and partly improvised here on the piano by Adrian Oetiker.
A hugely experienced, multinational cast of musicians has been assembled for this disc, and it is difficult to fault any of their playing, either individually or as an ensemble. The recording is very good, although the clarinet keys do clatter a bit at times, and Brunner does take quite extravagant breaths in places; both noises are particularly noticeable in the sonatas.
Tudor have previously released Lefèvre's four other extant clarinet quartets - reviewed here - , as well as three of the seven clarinet concertos (Tudor 7098). Together with this disc they give a fine overview of an interesting musician.
Expressive, graceful, beautifully crafted.