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Iwan MÜLLER (1786-1854)
Clarinet Concerto No.3 in B flat major (pub. 1820) [13:59]
Clarinet Concerto No.4 in A minor (early 1820s) [15:31]
Clarinet Concerto No.5 in E flat major (early 1820s) [12:19]
Clarinet Concerto No.6 in G minor (early 1820s) [13:24]
Duo concertante in E flat major, Op.23 [10:47]
Friederike Roth (clarinet)
Johannes Gmeinder (clarinet 1 in Duo)
Philharmonic Orchestra of the Cottbus State Theatre/Evan Christ
rec. Cottbus, August 2013
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM SACD 901 1846-6 [65:54]

Iwan Müller was a clarinet virtuoso and composer noted for his etudes, which are still played by aspiring students of the instrument. He also developed the clarinette omnitonique, in 1809, an instrument capable of producing all the tones of the chromatic scale over four and a half octaves. The booklet notes are helpful about this. It’s also fortunate that much has been written elsewhere about his pioneering expansion of the clarinet, by which he increased its keys to thirteen.
 
He was active at the Tsarist court in St Petersburg in the first decade of the nineteenth century, later moving to Paris, continuing to oversee the production of his new clarinet — he had in fact opened a factory for that very reason in the French capital — and touring as a travelling clarinet virtuoso. His novel clarinet inspired a burgeoning market in concertos, not least through its use by other emerging clarinet virtuosos – witness the Weber Concerto, for instance, written for Heinrich Baermann – but Müller himself composed a series of concertos as well. Of the 112 works known to have been written by him between 1810 and 1850 five concertos (or concertante) works have survived and are played in this disc. They date from the 1820s.
 
They’re performed in reverse order, starting with No.6 and ending up with No.3, with the Duo concertante, possibly the earliest to be written, concluding the programme. In the main, and despite the putative dating of these works, the prevailing influence is more Mannheim than Beethoven. Müller is conscious of structural complexity in his concertos, and also in exploring aspects of bel canto lyricism via phrasal flexibility and singing melodic paragraphs. It is exceptionally elegant and supremely graceful music and whilst elements remain a touch stylised, such as the Bolero alla Polacca of the Sixth Concerto, it never sounds less than beautifully organised. Unlike No.6, the Fifth concerto is a one-movement work, cast in a twelve-minute Allegro brillante. There are appropriately heroic-sounding horns, and the concerto-rondo effect is altogether well judged by the performers here. It’s structured in five sections and a cadenza, with framing tuttis, and once again the dictates of aria-like solemnity and virtuosic extroversion are perceptively presented.
 
Friederike Roth, the young soloist has already recorded Müller’s clarinet quartets and sounds perfectly inside his idiom, nowhere more so than in the operatic roulades unleashed in the terrifically extrovert Fourth Concerto with its solo vocalised cadential passages, its mellifluous melancholy and in the chamber sonorities of the Andante movement where a series of variations take in wide-ranging moods. The Third Concerto doesn’t aspire to this level of virtuosity or operatic panache, but its Mannheim rocket and theme with four variations in the opening of the two movements offer other pleasures. The eventful solo writing is accompanied by zesty horns parts. In the Duo concertante Roth is joined by Johannes Gmeinder. It was a popular calling-card for Müller and has an appealing buffo quality, very Rossinian, and offers almost limitless enjoyment for the cavorting clarinettists.
 
Thoughtfully accompanied by Evan Christ and the Cottbus Theatre Orchestra, this joyful disc will give clarinet aficionados much pleasure.
 
Jonathan Woolf