[ Brilliant Classics / 14 CD Box Set ]
Release Date: Saturday 1 September 2018
Many of the composers in this set wrote for the clarinet at times when the orchestral status and design of the instrument were still in transition: the 18th century saw the gradual establishment of the clarinet as a more-or-less standard orchestral feature, its range being continually expanded in parallel.
Of course, nobody was more aware of these evolutions than clarinettists themselves, who are represented here by two instrumentalist-composers, the Swedish-Finnish Bernhard Crusell, whose three concertos make use of the clarinet's full range, and Heinrich Baermann, the dedicatee of Weber's works blessed with a wonderful personal idiom.
Other names which may be less familiar to listeners include Charles Villiers Stanford, a leading figure in the late-19th-century renaissance of British music who is often overshadowed by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and Julius Rietz, most closely associated with Mendelssohn, both of whom contribute concertos with clear influences (Brahms and Mendelssohn respectively) that still retain their individuality.
Mendelssohn himself is not often associated with the clarinet, but features here via his Concert Pieces for clarinet, basset horn and piano, alongside other unexpected figures such as Rossini and Mercadante (both better known for their operas) and Franz Anton Hoffmeister, most famous as a music publisher. The other multiple-soloist compositions come from the pen of Carl Stamitz, a prolific composer who contributed more than ten concertos featuring the clarinet. Equally prolific was Franz Krommer, whose concertos are among the most unpredictable and imaginative in the set.
Also notable for its innovative style is Copland's Concerto, influenced by jazz and written in response to a commission from famous jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman. By contrast, Bruch, despite living through the diverse innovations of the late 18th and early 19th century, remained steadfast and consistent in his compositional approach.