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Concerto for clarinet, viola and orchestra in E minor, Op 88
1911; first performed in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, in 1912; published by Eichmann in 1913

'The Clarinet in Concert' (CDD22017)
The Clarinet in Concert
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Movement 1: Andante con moto
Movement 2: Allegro moderato
Movement 3: Allegro molto

Concerto for clarinet, viola and orchestra in E minor, Op 88
Max Bruch (1838–1920) was born in Cologne and studied composition with Hiller and Reinecke, later becoming conductor of the orchestra in Berlin in addition to that of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society (1880–1883). He then became director of the Breslau Orchestral Society before being appointed Professor of Composition at the Berlin Hochschule in 1892, a position he held until 1910. His output covered operas, three symphonies, three violin concertos (the first, in G minor, is his best known composition) and other works for this instrument plus a wide range of choral music.

The Concerto for clarinet, viola and orchestra, Op 88, fails to get mentioned in The New Grove and considerable mystery surrounds its composition. It is important to point out that it should not be confused with the Double Piano Concerto, Op 88a: there is no similarity. The work for clarinet and viola was written in 1911, the first performance occurring at Wilhelmshaven in Northern Germany in 1912 with the manuscript score and parts being used. It was first published by Eichmann the following year.

Bruch writes the opening movement, Andante con moto, in common time, setting the mood in a warm, lyrical late-Romantic manner. The solo viola opens boldly at the start immediately followed by the clarinet giving an autumnal melancholic glow to the solo instruments which later weave their ways both independently and corporately in turn. The accompaniment is deftly made so that the quieter tones of the viola are not obscured in any way. At bar 58 there is a change of key at which point the cellos play pizzicato. Then at bar 90 the clarinet part moves into semiquavers only to be followed by the solo viola, but by bar 115 the quieter mood has returned. The second movement, an Allegro moderato in 3/4 time, is again lyrical in style, the solo instruments almost singing a long duet together with the orchestra acting as the accompanying ensemble. For example, at bar 78 the strings play pizzicato, suggesting either a guitar or harp. The finale, an Allegro molto in 2/4, opens with a fanfare from trumpets and timpani but soon employs the full orchestra in a lengthy tutti. The clarinet first enters at bar 49 but now the two solo instruments have considerable interplay in their more animated writing, here more demanding technically than in the first two movements. This swift but charming finale completes a work through which pervades a warm nostalgic glow of the late nineteenth century.

from notes by Hyperion Records Ltd İ 1989

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