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
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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