Bernhard Henrik CRUSELL
Complete Clarinet Concertos and Quartets
Clarinet Concerto no.1 in E flat, op.1 (?1803-05) [22:54]
Clarinet Concerto no.2 in F minor, op.5 (1815) [25:08]
Clarinet Concerto no.3 in B flat, op.11 (?1807) [25:31]
Clarinet Quartet no.1 in E flat, op.2 [22:10]
Clarinet Quartet no.3 in D, op.7 [25:02]
Clarinet Quartet no.2 in C minor, op.4 [18:28]
Emma Johnson (clarinet: concertos)
Henk de Graaf (clarinet: quartets)
English Chamber Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
Daniel String Quartet trio (Misha Furman (violin), Itamar Shimon
(viola), Joanna Pachucka (cello))
rec. Protestant church, De Glind, Barneveld, Netherlands, 17-18
November 2007 [quartetss] Concertos - no information]. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94219 [73:58 + 66:06]
This release from Brilliant Classics brings together
several of ethnic Swedish composer Bernhard Crusell's key works
in a handy double disc set. It features some classic Emma Johnson
recordings licensed from ASV (now belonging to Universal Music)
and the previously unreleased Quartets as performed by Henk
The Concerto recordings have made several appearances over the
years initially on ASV, followed first by Sanctuary's Resonance
label, then UMC. Now Brilliant have sought to capitalise on
Emma Johnson's popularity - a popularity that began with her
success in the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition in
1984 - which she won, incidentally, with a performance of Crusell's
F minor Concerto. This led to a profusion of CD titles like
"The Art of Emma Johnson" and "The Essential Emma Johnson":
the art of reselling essentially the same recordings, more like!
It must be said, however, that Crusell's three Clarinet Concertos
would grace any music-lover's collection, and whilst it would
be interesting to have new recordings of them by Johnson (and
Schwarz, for that matter), for those still without, these will
do nicely in any case.
The Concertos are all cut from the same cloth, as the timings
suggest: two-and-a-half minutes separates the three of them,
with a long fast first movement, a short slow second and an
upbeat finale of medium length. There is some uncertainty over
dates of composition, but the range is less than ten years -
some time in the first and second decades of the 19th century,
although the Third may have been revised as late as the mid-1820s.
At any rate they are stylistically very similar: warm, genial
works with very attractive slow movements and many passages
elsewhere of excitement and even bravura. The Second and Third
are as memorable as those by Weber, with which they are almost
exactly contemporaneous. Like Weber's works, Crusell's have
managed to stay in the clarinet concerto repertoire despite
the low profile of their creator and the fact that they came
from a period of relative upheaval for the clarinet.
Crusell's own favourite was the proto-Romantic F minor Concerto
- almost certainly his most mature, despite its opus number,
and certainly lovely. However the invention and virtuosity of
the B flat, not to mention its dreamy Mozartean slow movement,
may make the greater audience-pleaser.
Sound quality on this disc is fairly good, if a little over-processed.
For the Third Concerto the microphones are noticeably further
away, alleviated by a turn of the volume button.
What the three Clarinet Quartets lack by comparison in virtuosity
they more than compensate for in elegance, joie de vivre and
cantabile mellifluousness. The dates of composition are unclear
- the first may have been written as early as 1803, the latest
certainly by 1822. They are in any case roughly contemporaneous
with those by Xavier Lefèvre - see review
of two played by Eduard Brunner released last year on Tudor
- and certainly share the same wide appeal. As with the Concertos,
the minor key work stands out for its pensive passages, and
much other brilliant writing besides, but the longest and best
is the Schubertian Quartet in D, among the finest examples of
the genre of the late-Classical period.
Sound quality on this CD is very much higher, marked down slightly
for the occasional intrusion of traffic noise. The one minor
regret is the closeness of the microphone to Henk de Graaf's
clarinet - too much air noise is picked up in the quieter passages.
Founding member and cellist of the multinational Daniel String
Quartet Zvi Maschkowski is replaced for this recording by the
peripatetic Joanna Pachucka. The three strings have their moments
sharing the spotlight, particularly in the Quartet in D, and
they accept them with great poise. Generally Crusell's writing
focuses on the clarinet, and brings out the best here in Henk
de Graaf, who performs with a tone and spirit to match his technique.
The booklet notes are not exactly extravagant, but they are
sufficient. Most of the technical information is supplied, though
it would not have harmed Brilliant to look up and include the
location and dates of the ASV recordings.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk