Music for a Prussian Salon - Franz Tausch in Context
Franz TAUSCH (1762-1817)
XIII Pièces en Quatuor Op. 22 - Suite 1 [22:15]
Johann STAMITZ (1717-1757)
Three quartets for two clarinets and two horns [5:35]
Bernhard Henrik CRUSELL (1775-1838)
Concert-Trio for clarinet, horn and bassoon [10:54]
Heinrich BAERMANN (1784-1847)
Quintet for clarinet and strings in B flat, op. 23: Adagio (arr. R. Percival) [4:28]
XIII Pièces en Quatuor Op. 22 - Suite 2 [28:54]
Boxwood & Brass (Emily Worthington Fiona Mitchell (clarinet), Robert Percival (bassoon), Anneke Scott, Kate Goldsmith (horn))
rec. 4-7 April 2016, Manna Oak Studio, Ludlow
RESONUS RES10177 [72:53]
Two clarinettists from the past are still universally known and admired as they inspired composers to some of their finest works. Anton Stadler (1753-1812) was a close friend of Mozart who composed his clarinet concerto and clarinet quintet for him. Heinrich Baermann inspired Felix Mendelssohn and Carl Maria von Weber to compositions for clarinet which are still part of the standard repertoire of today's clarinettists. This disc sheds light on another brilliant clarinettist of the late 18th century who has remained largely unknown, except to clarinettists: Franz Tausch. He was not only a universally admired performer but also a sought-after teacher: Baermann was one of his pupils, another one was the Swedish clarinettist Bernhard Henrik Crusell whose three clarinet concertos enjoy some fame among performers.
Tausch was a product of the famous Mannheim school: his first teacher was his father Jacob who played the clarinet in the court orchestra. His son joined him at the age of just eight, and it seems likely that Mozart heard them when he visited Mannheim in 1777. He came to love the clarinet and very much regretted that they were not included in the orchestra in Salzburg. In 1778 the Mannheim court and its orchestra moved to Munich. In 1789 Tausch was invited to join the orchestra of the Dowager Empress Elisabeth, widow of Frederick the Great, in Berlin. He later served in the orchestras of Frederick William II and III. He stayed in Berlin until his death. Here he also founded the Conservatorium der Blasinstrumente where Baermann and Crusell were among his pupils. Pioneers of a particular instrument and authors of treatises are often ignored as composers in their own right. That goes for Tausch and Baermann and to a certain extent also Crusell.
The best-known composer on the programme is Johann Stamitz, although only a small part of his oeuvre is still played. Among the better-known pieces is his clarinet concerto in B flat; ironically he is the only composer represented here who was not a clarinettist himself. He is considered the founder of the Mannheim school and as he regularly included clarinet parts in his symphonies he has greatly contributed to the instrument's popularity. The present disc includes two Adagios and an Allegro for two clarinets and two horns which were included in a treatise on composing for the clarinet and the horn published in 1764 in Paris.
The main work on the programme is from the pen of Tausch: XIII Pièces en Quatuor op. 22 for two clarinets, horn and bassoon. Emily Worthington, in her liner-notes, mentions that other composers also wrote for this combination of instruments, but that overall the repertoire is rather small. She adds that this quartet of wind instruments can be considered the counterpart to the string quartet: the two clarinets play the role of the violins, the horn that of the viola whereas the bassoon is the foundation, just like the cello in the string quartet. Tausch's thirteen pieces are recorded complete here. They are split up in two suites of six and seven pieces respectively. They are of a different texture and character as the titles indicate. Both 'suites' end with a rondo, a popular form in the second half of the 18th century. Also popular were themes with variations; the Andante moderato (No. 5 of the set) is an example of such a piece. The Allemande and the Polonaise can be considered reminiscences of the past.
The last two pieces are from a later period; the works by Crusell and Baermann are examples of "Tausch's Legacy", as Emily Worthington calls them. The Finnish-born Crusell learnt the clarinet from a clarinettist of the Nyland regimental band in Finland and then played in the military band in Sveaborg, outside Helsinki. From 1793 to 1833 he played the clarinet in the court orchestra in Stockholm. As a composer he wrote one work for the stage, a number of solo songs and instrumental music, mostly with parts for clarinet. Among the latter are the three concertos I already mentioned, a couple of other pieces for clarinet with orchestra, music for military wind band and also some quartets for clarinet and strings. The Concert-Trio for clarinet, horn and bassoon is not included in Crusell's work-list in New Grove. It has been preserved in manuscript and is described in the liner-notes as "extremely demanding". That certainly regards the use of the full range of the instruments. The bassoon part was probably intended for Frans Carl Preumayr, Crusell's son-on-law, for whom he also wrote a concertino for bassoon and orchestra.
Heinrich Baermann also had a military background: his father was a soldier who sent him to the School of Military Music in Potsdam. He first learnt to play the oboe, then became a pupil of Joseph Beer, a famous performer on the clarinet and a pupil of Carl Stamitz. In 1805 he took lessons with Tausch. Weber composed almost all of his works with clarinet for Baermann; his clarinet quintet op. 34 counts among his best-known works. In comparison Baermann's own compositions are almost completely neglected: they include quartets and quintets as well as orchestral works, all with prominent clarinet parts. The Quintet in E flat op. 23 is for clarinet and strings, but here we hear the Adagio in the key of D flat, in an arrangement for clarinet and wind (a second clarinet, two horns and bassoon), made by the ensemble's bassoonist Robert Percival. This is justified by Tausch's own practice of arranging pieces for the ensemble of his Conservatorium.
This description indicates that this is a most interesting disc. It sheds light on a little-known figure who played a crucial role in music history. Tausch's pieces recorded here are well worth hearing and much more than a demonstration of technical prowess. That said, they certainly offer the performers the opportunity to show their skills, and the members of Boxwood & Brass have used it well. These performances are impressive, technically but also musically. The dances in Tausch's Pièces are played with rhythmical precision. As one would expect from a representative of the Mannheim school his pieces include quite some dynamic contrasts and these come off very well. There is no lack of expression in the slower movements. Baermann's Adagio receives a fine performance which brings out the piece's qualities, and it makes one curious to hear the whole quintet and other pieces from his output. Most pieces are probably recorded here for the first time, and all of them for the first time on period instruments. In particular in regard to ensemble this repertoire gains much from being performed on period instruments.
If you like this kind of repertoire this disc is not to be missed. I am looking forward to upcoming projects of this outstanding ensemble.
Johan van Veen
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