Johann Wenzel Anton STAMITZ (1717-1757)
Concert for Clarinet and Orchestra in B flat major [16:41]
Franz DANZI (1763-1826)
Concertino for Clarinet, Bassoon and Orchestra in B flat major, Op. 47 [15:58]
(bassoon part transcribed for cor anglais)
Fantasy for clarinet and orchestra on Mozart’s “Là ci darem la mano” [10:02]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
“Se viver non degg’io” from Mitridate, re di Ponto (arr. Stephan Koncz) [4:32]
“Batti, batti, o bel Masetto” from Don Giovanni (arr. Stephan Koncz) [3:51]
Carl Philipp STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 7 in E flat major [20:16]
Emmanuel Pahud (flute)
Albrecht Mayer (cor anglais)
Kammerakademie Potsdam/Andreas Ottensamer (clarinet/director)
rec. Teldex Studio, Berlin, September-October 2016
DECCA 4814711 [71:58]
The court of Mannheim was famous throughout the European Enlightenment for the quality of its music. They had more resources, more instruments and better musicians than elsewhere, and as a result the quality of their performances was famous across the continent. Mozart was deeply impressed by them when he visited in 1777, writing to his father, “Ah, if only we had clarinets in the orchestra! You wouldn’t believe what marvellous effects flutes, oboes and clarinets produce in a symphony… Oh, how much finer and better our orchestra might be [in Salzburg] if the Archbishop would only decide to make it so!” You can sense the frustration in the twenty-one-year-old composer’s words, and it would take him many more years before he had the luxury of writing a symphony with clarinets in Vienna.
For his latest recital disc, superstar clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer has showcased some of the music that the Mannheim school was writing around this time, focusing on their clarinet compositions, which were probably leading Europe at the time because they had clarinets embedded in the orchestral texture. Hence, the concerto by the elder Stamitz is probably one of the very earliest. As a work it’s very appealing. Very much of its time, it’s a picture of neoclassical refinement, with conversational question-and-answer moments. The clarinet line is pleasingly pungent, however, with lots of guttural low notes and charming runs, as well as a delightfully genial cadenza, some lovely long lines in the slow movement and a playful finale. Interestingly the younger Stamitz didn’t appear to have moved on a lot stylistically in the decades after his father, but his concerto is still very pleasant on the ear, with a more individualistic role for clarinet. In this work Ottensamer has more opportunities self-consciously to be a soloist, and he is definitely centre-stage in the slow movement with its long-poured-out, singerly central melody, spiced further by an improvisatory cadenza.
The principal clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic has, for this CD, got some of his fellow wind principals to join him. Danzi’s Concertino moves things into an already more dramatic plane than the elder Stamitz. His music has more energy and a sense of curiosity about where the music might be going. It’s not quite Romanticism yet but, even though the variations of finale are decidedly conventional, it’s certainly on the way. Albrecht Mayer’s cor anglais certainly ain't the original bassoon, but I really liked the texture of hearing clarinet and cor anglais together, and it adds to the disc’s USP to have this one-off arrangement on it. Similarly, the two operatic arrangements co-starring Emmanuel Pahud are utterly charming. Danzi’s Fantasy on Là ci darem has a deceptively Romanticised opening but then turns into a delightful set of variations which showcase the clarinettist as an opera singer.
It’s all very fine, then, but I nevertheless left the disc feeling a little undernourished. For all the claims of the booklet, I didn’t learn very much about just why the Mannheim school was important, and while the music is all pleasant it isn’t quite top drawer enough to grip consistently. I wished there had been some more challenging material here, or that its historical impact had been more convincingly unpacked.