MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Clarissa Bevilacqua plays
Augusta Read Thomas

all Nimbus reviews

Brahms Dvorak
Brahms 2 Dvorak 7
all tudor reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Blue Hour
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo in A major, Op. 118/2 (1893) (arr. Nicolai Popov for clarinet and piano) [5:47]
Wie Melodien zieht es mir,” Op. 105/1 (1886) (arr. Ottensamer for clarinet and piano) [2:09]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Lieder ohne Worte (1829-45) (arr. Ottensamer for clarinet and piano): Op. 30/4 [2:31]; Op. 30/6 [3:08]; Op. 67/2 [2:15]; Op. 67/3 [2:25]; Op. 85/4 [2:35]; Op. 85/6 [1:52]; Op. 102/1 [2:49]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73 (1811) [20:04]
Grand Duo concertant in E flat major for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 48 (1815-16) [16:10]
Andreas Ottensamer (clarinet), Yuja Wang (piano), Berliner Philharmoniker / Mariss Jansons
rec. 2018, Berlin Philharmonie (concerto), Meistersaal (the rest), Berlin, Germany

This could have been just another “vanity” concept album with its title “Blue Hour” and copious colour photos of the attractive performers, clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer and pianist Yuja Wang. However, it is anything but that and one that disarms criticism. Ottensamer, while an outstanding clarinet soloist on his own, is a true chamber music partner and, as principal clarinet (along with Wenzel Fuchs) of the Berlin Philharmonic, an orchestral musician and primer inter pares in this account of the Weber Clarinet Concerto No. 1.

The arrangements for clarinet and piano of short pieces by Brahms and Mendelssohn are tasteful and idiomatic. Ottensamer and Wang make an ideal partnership here without one dominating the other. The clarinetist arranged all of these with the sole exception of the Brahms Intermezzo, which was transcribed by one Nicolai Popov. Having played the Intermezzo myself, I could not imagine it as anything other than a piano solo, but the clarinet only enhances its autumnal flavour. Ottensamer has a gorgeous tone, warm and woody, with nary a harsh note. The Brahms song, “Wie Melodien zieht es mir,” is also beautifully done and the piano gets to shine on occasion, too. Now if only the duo would record the Brahms clarinet sonatas.

The artists chose seven of Mendelssohn’s popular Songs without Words that contain plenty of variety and contrast well with each other. As noted in the CD booklet, Ottensamer considers the Romantic song as the main focus of the album and this is more than borne out by the Mendelssohn arrangements. The programme works best, I think, if played in the order that the works are presented. The first of those is the light and joyous Op. 85/6 with the mellifluous clarinet contrasting the bright and crisp piano. A real delight! Following this is the darker and at times melancholy Op. 102/1. Here sentiment is fully expressed without sentimentality on the performers’ part. Then later in the programme we have Op. 30/4, taken at an effervescently fast tempo, Wang’s trembling repeated piano notes are clear and the rhythm sustained very well. The other songs are as fine: Op. 67/3, wistful and tranquil; Op. 30/6, the folkish Venetian Gondola Song; Op. 67/2, vivacious piano partnered with songful clarinet; and Op. 85/4, lyrical with Ottensamer’s ravishing tone in the spotlight.

While these Brahms and Mendelssohn pieces are all engaging, they may be thought of individually as encore selections. The meat so to speak of the disc are the two Weber works, staples of the clarinet repertoire. The Grand Duo concertant is, as the title suggests, a virtuosic work for both clarinet and piano. Weber composed it for Heinrich Baermann, a leading clarinetist of the era for whom he also wrote his two clarinet concertos. The work is in three movements—a witty Allegro, a pensive Andante con moto, and a charming Rondo. Ottensamer describes the piece as an homage to Italian opera and notes that it quotes a popular tune in the first movement’s second theme. Ottensamer and Wang give the work a sparkling performance without either musician dominating the other. While the piece is lighthearted for the most part, the second movement is more serious with its rather sad song. The clarinet and then the piano really let loose at the end of the Rondo, bringing the work to a close in exhilarating fashion.

Weber’s clarinet concertos are, of course, well represented on disc. I have usually thought of them as pieces to show off the abilities of clarinetists. This is especially true of the Concerto No. 2, where the soloist has a field day and the orchestra dutifully accompanies for the most part. The Concerto No. 1, on the other hand, is a more serious work, but I have never heard it performed with as much depth as it gets here. Ottensamer’s role as Berlin Philharmonic principal ensures that orchestra’s role is not in any way diminished. One can particularly appreciate this performance because of the fine interaction between the soloist and the orchestra members. Besides the mellow and secure clarinet playing, the bassoons, flutes, and oboes make a telling contribution. The highlight for me, though, is the poetic Adagio ma non troppo slow movement where Weber’s experience as an opera composer is well demonstrated—the clarinet emulating the human voice. Then beginning before the 3:00 mark the clarinet accompanied by a fabulous Berlin horn trio makes one wish this music would never end. It is glorious. Mariss Jansons has established a reputation as an excellent concerto accompanist before and he easily lives up to that acclaim here. Whether in the stormy Allegro first movement or the jolly and colourful Rondo, this account puts all others I have heard in the shade. Indeed, I am now convinced that work is nearly of the stature of Mozart’s great Clarinet Concerto.

Oh, and that title Blue Hour? According to Ottensamer, it refers to the “brief interval between sunset and nocturnal darkness,” a period of “melancholy thoughts of a particular person, as dreamy as the memories of past happiness that sometimes envelop us in the transfigured twilight.” I can only add that one should arouse oneself from this reverie and get a copy of the disc straightaway.

Leslie Wright

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

November 2022
Bach Orchestral Suites

del Cinque
Del Cinque Cello sonatas

Fujita Mozart
Mao Fujita Mozart

Stanczyk Acousmatic Music


October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus