Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Fantastia: Adagio
Movement 3: Menuetto: Capriccio
Movement 4: Rondo: Allegro giojoso
A note in Weber’s diary for 24 September 1811 reads, ‘Began comp: Quintett for Bär:’. Parts of the minuet and the opening Allegro were sketched over the next few days, though the Allegro was not finished until April 1813. Weber then presented the work, still lacking the final Rondo, to Baermann for his birthday on 13 April, and they tried the three movements out in Louis Spohr’s rooms on 3 May. Not until 25 August 1815 was the Rondo eventually added. Shortly before meeting Weber, Baermann had acquired a ten-key instrument by Griessling und Schlott that opened up new technical possibilities, and the music is clearly intended for Baermann personally and for his new clarinet. (Some twenty years after Baermann’s death in 1847, his son Carl made a version of this work which he claimed was based on his father’s performing tradition, and it is this which is used in the present recording.)
After introductory string chords, Weber opens his sonata-form Allegro with a pianissimo phrase rising and swelling from a high B flat, an effect made more accessible by the new instrument. High notes and their smooth linking with low ones feature in the invention, as does the greater ease with chromatic scales. The graceful slow movement, entitled Fantasia, includes two passages in which the clarinet soars up a long chromatic scale fortissimo, repeated pianissimo before the elegant melody is resumed. It is music not simply for show, but revelling in the new expressive possibilities which performer and instrument can now command. The lively Menuetto (subtitled Capriccio) enjoys the instrument’s ability to handle previously difficult fingerings; and the concluding Rondo, though including a brief Romantic shudder by the future composer of Der Freischütz, gives even the finest player plenty to think about in the final burst of applause music.
from notes by John Warrack © 2005