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Romberg, Fuchs & Stanford: Clarinet Quintets

Dame Thea King (clarinet), The Britten String Quartet
Originally issued on CDA66479
Recording details: January 1991
St Martin's Church, East Woodhay, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: May 2001
Total duration: 79 minutes 24 seconds

Cover artwork: Full Summer by Sir John Arnesby Brown (1866-1955)
City of Nottingham Museums, Castle Museum & Art Gallery
 
1
Allegro  [8'22]
2
3
Larghetto  [4'24]
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Reviews

'Delightfully played… a source of constant pleasure. Music of this quality deserves to become part of the repertoire' (Gramophone)

'These are diversions – divertimenti – in the best sense of the word. There’s plenty of lively, affectionate musicianship in these performances – all warmly and intimately recorded' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Easygoing, tuneful and very likeable … there’s plenty of lively, affectionate musicianship in these performances – all warmly and intimately recorded' (MusicWeb International)

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In that unthinkable Age of Grace enjoyed by all mankind before the dawning of the twentieth century—before atonality and the H-Bomb—few composers thought of writing for the clarinet in the upper part of its register, and the high piccolo clarinet (in E flat) was practically unknown outside the military band. Stridency was uncivilized. Mozart, Weber, Brahms, Reger—and lesser (but not undistinguished) luminaries like Romberg, Fuchs and Stanford—all favoured the clarinet for its lyrical, euphonious quality, its rich warmth of expression, and its deep broad range of tone colours. Until the saxophone was invented, the clarinet, of all the woodwind instruments, most nearly approximated to the human voice, and its extraordinary powers of dynamic control, especially in diminuendo and pianissimo, enable it to blend with other instruments (both strings and brass) as if it were one of the family. Another asset is the fact that the ear tires of the clarinet much less readily than any other wind instrument, so that listening to Thea King’s present recital right the way through (the works are presented in chronological order) is not a penance but a pleasure.

Christopher Palmer © 1992

A cette période de grâce inconcevable dont jouit l’humanité avant l’aube du vingtième siècle, avant l’atonalité et la bombe H, peu de compositeurs pensaient à écrire pour la clarinette en utilisant la partie supérieure de son registre, et la clarinette piccolo au son aigü (en mi mineur) était pratiquement inconnue en dehors des orchestres militaires. La stridulence n’était pas considérée comme civilisée. Mozart, Weber, Brahms, Reger et d’autres compositeurs de moindre éminence mais non sans distinction, comme Romberg, Fuchs et Stanford, appréciaient tous la clarinette pour ses qualités mélodieuses et lyriques, la richesse chaleureuse de son expression, et la largeur et profondeur de son éventail de couleurs tonales. Jusqu’à l’invention du saxophone, la clarinette était de tous les instruments à vent, celui qui ressemblait le plus à la voix humaine, et ses pouvoirs extraordinaires de contrôle des dynamiques, surtout dans les diminuendo et les pianissimo, lui permettait de se mêler à d’autres instruments (les cordes comme les cuivres) comme si elle faisait partie de la famille. Un autre de ses avantages est que l’oreille se fatigue de la clarinette moins facilement que de tout autre instrument à vent: écouter le présent récital de Thea King d’un bout à l’autre (les œuvres sont présentées dans l’ordre chronologique) n’est donc pas un pensum, mais un plaisir.

Christopher Palmer © 1992

Im fast undenkbaren Zeitalter der Anmut, das die Menschheit vor Anbruch des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts—vor Atonalität und Atombombe—erleben durfte, dachten nur wenige Komponisten an die Klarinette und ihre höheren Register, und die hohe Pikkolo-Klarinette (in Es) war ausser in der Militärkapelle praktisch unbekannt. Schrillheit galt als verpönt und unzivilisiert. Mozart, Weber, Brahms, Reger—und geringere (jedoch nicht mittelmässige) Leuchten wie Romberg, Fuchs und Stanford—bevorzugten jedoch die Klarinette für ihre lyrische, wohlklingende Qualität, ihre Wärme im Ausdruck, ihre tiefe, ausgedehnte Klangpalette. Bis das Saxophon erfunden war, simulierte die Klarinette von allen Holzblasinstrumenten am ehesten die menschliche Stimme und mit ihrer ausserordentlichen Fähigkeit der dynamischen Kontrolle, besonders die des diminuendos und pianissimos, kann sie sich so unter andere Instrumente (Streicher und Bläser) mischen, als gehöre sie zur gleichen Familie. Ein anderer Vorzug ist, dass sich das menschliche Ohr viel weniger an der Klarinette satt hört als an irgendeinem anderen Blasinstrument. Das bedeutet, das vorliegende Konzert von Thea King ist bis zum Ende (die Werke sind in chronologischer Reihenfolge angeordnet) keine Strafe, sondern eine helle Freude.

Christopher Palmer © 1992

Stanford probably never heard the Fantasies, although he wrote out the parts himself, making a few small changes to the score. There was confusion about ‘da capo’ and ‘coda’ signs in No 2, and other inconsistencies, so it seems possible that they were not performed. One may speculate that in paying homage to Brahms’s Quintet he might have recalled Mühlfeld’s rejection of his own concerto—which in March 1922 was much acclaiimed in a student performance by Frederick Thurston who continued to promote it for thirty years. Whereas Stanford’s style changed little in later life, Fuchs seems, to the players, to have absorbed the flavours of the young Mahler, Strauss and Schoenberg.

Romberg was not alone in using two violas; Franz Krommer did likewise in his Clarinet Quintet, and probably they both knew the Mozart Horn Quintet.

Thea King © 1992

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