Hyperion Records

Clarinet Concerto No 2 in E flat major, Op 57
In the summer of 1810 Germany’s first genuine music festival was staged in Frankenhausen and Spohr was selected as conductor, a remarkable accolade as he was by far the youngest contender for the position. Hermstedt’s appetite for new Spohr works was insatiable and he proposed that he should unveil a second clarinet concerto at the festival. Accordingly, Spohr got to work during the spring and the Concerto in E flat major was first performed by Hermstedt at Frankenhausen on 22 July 1810. He had brought his own specialist wind players from Sondershausen to reinforce the festival orchestra so Spohr took full advantage of their presence and ability with much interplay for them with their clarinettist director.

For the E flat major Concerto Spohr follows tradition with a full-scale opening tutti though, after a call to attention from the orchestra in the first few bars, he slyly lets the soloist respond briefly before the tutti gets fully under way. As befits the original occasion there is much festive writing for trumpets and drums while a march rhythm dominates the second subject which first appears in the unexpected key of D flat major before reaching its destination of B flat major. Again there is a new theme in the ‘development’ section which provides a contrasting romantic lyrical quality to the surrounding festive pomp and, as in all of Spohr’s four clarinet concertos as well as most of his others, no space is found for a cadenza. Spohr thought that cadenzas pandered to the worst side of solo instrumentalists and he generally shunned them.

For the Adagio, Spohr chose one of his favourite keys, A flat major, which he had also opted for in the C minor Concerto. Here, though, we have a full-scale movement which beautifully exploits the clarinet’s rich low chalumeau register as well as including a wonderfully powerful contrasting section in C minor where the soloist executes dramatic runs and leaps. Also, the orchestral wind, especially the flute and bassoon, step forward to share the limelight briefly with the clarinet. The finale (‘Alla Polacca’ – in the then fashionable polonaise style) begins with solo timpani answered by the horns before the clarinet introduces the main theme; this opening timpani–horn exchange goes on to play a prominent part in the movement. Hermstedt was especially famous for his playing in the upper register so Spohr gives him chance to show off by ascending stratospherically to C altissimo, a real test for a performer even today.

from notes by Keith Warsop © 2005
Chairman, Spohr Society of Great Britain

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67509 track 5
Recording date
28 May 2004
Recording venue
Örebro Konserthuset, Örebro, Sweden
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Phil Rowlands
Hyperion usage
  1. Spohr: Clarinet Concertos Nos 1 & 2 (CDA67509)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: April 2005
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