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In several ways, the piece looks forward to the Clarinet Concertino of 1811: in its single-movement form; in its unusual structure that perhaps indicates Weber’s desire to move away from the traditional three-movement concerto format; and in its almost operatic treatment of the solo part. It was written for a hand horn and would have pushed the soloist’s technique to its limits; the piece’s preponderance of chromatic pitches look forward to the modern era of the valve horn. Significantly, just three years after the premiere of the Concertino, Heinrich Stölzel and Friedrich Bluhmel patented their horn design employing two piston valves.
The piece falls into four sections: an Adagio-Andante introduction; an Andante theme and variations; a recitative; and a lively Polacca. It opens with ominous-sounding unison Es and Bs for the full orchestra, immediately establishing the E minor sound world, which leads into a sorrowful horn melody in 6/8 that even at this early stage explores the extremes of the instrument’s range, with melodic leaps covering more than two octaves.
The sunnier, somewhat rustic-sounding Andante theme and variations section follows after a short pause, in which the soloist plays a deceptively simple melody that Weber puts through its paces in a series of increasingly embellished variations. The solo part suddenly bursts into life in the second variation, full of cascading triplet arpeggios, setting the scene for lively activity in the later variations.
The recitative section contrasts a vocally inflected, remarkably agile solo horn part against dramatic string chords, and the mood changes again for the stomping polacca dance in E major.
from notes by David Kettle © 2012