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Clarinet Concerto No 1 in F minor, J114 Op 73

composer

 
Weber composed the first of the two clarinet concertos commissioned by King Maximilian quickly, in April and May 1811 (he reputedly wrote the first movement, and orchestrated it, in a single day). It was first performed on 13th June 1811 in Munich, again with Heinrich Bärmann, its dedicatee, as soloist.

Don’t be fooled by the work’s high opus number, which does not reflect its date of composition: Weber only gave the score to his Berlin publisher Schlesinger in 1822, who added it to the end of his list of works. After the piece’s initial performances, Bärmann felt that the first movement ought to show off his abilities to greater effect, so he inserted a short cadenza that functions like a flourish for the soloist.

Although it has contrasting themes, development, a cadenza and a form of recapitulation, the Concerto’s first movement is not strictly speaking in sonata form. Instead, the orchestra and soloist take a subject each. The cellos have the distinctive first subject, based around a rising and falling F minor triad, which explodes in towering tutti chords that come as if from nowhere. Following stormy outbursts from the orchestra, the soloist enters with a poignant second theme marked con duolo (‘sorrowfully’). After a return of the opening theme, this time in D-flat major and with embellishments from the soloist, a section featuring clarinet triplets leads to Bärmann’s cadenza. A development section combines earlier themes, and the brief recapitulation presents a restatement of the opening triad theme before the clarinet takes over in sparkling runs and the movement subsides into a ruminative conclusion.

In the second movement, the clarinet floats an aria-like melody over gently rocking chords in the strings. The movement’s middle section is in two parts, the first a brief but assertive C minor episode where the clarinet performs runs up and down over a wide range. The second is another of Weber’s dark-hued passages, combining the solo clarinet with a trio of horns in an exquisite chorale. A restatement of the opening melody and a brief reminiscence of the horn chorale end the movement.

The finale is a jaunty, dance-like rondo in 2/4, which the clarinet mischievously seems intent on slowing down on two occasions. It reaches a temporary conclusion with a brief flourish that sends the clarinet up into its highest register, but continues in an introspective episode in D minor, breathless semiquavers from the soloist in a B-flat major passage, and joyful final bars.

from notes by David Kettle © 2012

Recordings

Weber: Wind Concertos
Studio Master: CKD409Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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