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Iwan MÜLLER (1786-1854)
Clarinet Quartet no.1 in B flat (1820) [16:24]
Le Rêve - Episode Dramatique, for clarinet and piano, op.73 (1840s) [4:46]
Scène Romantique, for clarinet and piano, op.96 (1840s) [8:52]
Fantaisie sur un Thème de Mozart, for clarinet and piano (c.1820) [10:32]
Le Château de Madrid, for clarinet and piano, op.79 (1840s) [7:59]
Clarinet Quartet no.2 in E minor (1820) [17:16]
Souvenir de Dobbéran, for two clarinets and piano, op.28 (1820s) [7:02]
Friederike Roth (clarinet)
Wenzel Fuchs (clarinet: Souvenir)
Erika le Roux (piano)
Berolina Ensemble members (Quartets)
rec. Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 20-21 September 2010; 18-19 October 2010 (Quartets). DDD
NAXOS 8.572885 [73:00]

The recently-founded Berolina Ensemble's concert programmes admirably focus on resurrecting the reputations of some of history's forgotten composers. Tallinn-born Iwan Müller certainly falls into that category, his pedagogic clarinet studies being practically the only aspect of his life's work still heard today, and then only in the classroom.
In fact, Müller actually began working on functional improvements to the then rather inflexible clarinet whilst still in his teens, eventually inventing a new key system and the metal reed-ligature, and the great concertos of Spohr and Weber were written for the Müller improvement. Fittingly, these are the two composers, almost exact contemporaries, whose clarinet writing is brought to mind by Müller's: ultra-lyrical, dynamic and fresh. Virtuosic too: Müller naturally give a prominent role to the instrument with which he toured Europe. He also composed extensively for it, producing six concertos proper and other works both on an orchestral and chamber scale, including the two differentially impressive quartets featured here.
Müller also wrote numerous pieces for clarinet and piano, and those chosen for this programme belong to what the notes, quite reasonably, refer to as "sophisticated romantic salon music", public-pleasing in their intentional resemblance structurally and melodically to bel canto opera. More of this kind of thing from Müller can be found, incidentally, on probably the only other monograph of his music, a Talent release from a decade back (DOM 291084, review). That disc was rather fancifully titled 'Romantic Music from Estonia' - Müller's works are about as authentically Estonian-sounding as the clarinet. His only other appearances on disc have been in the odd anthology, so this Naxos release gives a substantial and worthy boost to his discographic record.
A relatively low-key debut for Naxos, then, for all the performers concerned in this recording, but it is an appealing one, particularly for youngish German clarinettist Friederike Roth, whose playing is silkily expressive, exuding confidence and warmth from start to finish.
Sound quality is very good. The accompanying notes are detailed and interesting, although there are one or two oddities of translation, such as "[Mozart] was starting to be celebrated as a 'classic'" or "Fantaisie sur un Thème de Mozart pour la Clarinette, for clarinet and piano".  

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