Complete Clarinet Concertos & Quartets: composed by Crusell: played by Emma Johnson and Henk de Graaf
This is a 2 CD set consisting of the 3 Clarinet Concertos on the first CD and secondly the Clarinet Quartets on the second CD. All are the comosition of Bernhard Hendrik Crusell(1775-1838) one of the greatest clarinet virtuosos of his time, was a Swedish-Finnish clarinetist, composer and translator, "the most significant and internationally best-known Finnish-born classical composer and indeed, -- the outstanding Finnish composer before Sibelius." He was based in Sweden even though at the time of his birth he was born in the Swedish territory of Finland.
In Stockholm Crusell continued his studies and established himself as a clarinet soloist. In 1792, at age sixteen, he received an appointment as the director of the regimental band, and in 1793 became principal clarinet with the Hovkapellet (Royal Court Orchestra), which was directed by his composition teacher, the German composer Abbé Vogler. In 1798 he received financial assistance which enabled him to live in Berlin for a few months and study with the well-known German clarinetist Franz Tausch (1762-1817). Tausch had founded the German school of clarinet playing which emphasized beauty of tone over technique. Crusell's progress was swift, and he performed at concerts in Berlin and Hamburg before returning to Sweden. The review of the Hamburg concert in Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung was positive. Crusell lived in Sweden for the rest of his life, going back to Finland only once. After a trip to St. Petersburg, on his return trip to Sweden, he performed in Helsinki on 7 July 1801, with the pianist Fredrik Lithander as his accompanist, and in Turku on 30 July, in a concert organized by the orchestra of the Turku Society of Music.
Between 1791 and 1799 Crusell studied music theory and composition with Abbé Vogler and another German teacher, Daniel Böritz, when Böritz was resident in Stockholm. In 1803 while in Paris Crusell studied composition at the Conservatoire with Gossec and Berton. He composed pieces, including concertos and chamber works, not only for his own use, but also for other wind players in the court orchestra. In 1811 he traveled to Leipzig where he established a relationship with the music publisher Bureau de Musique, which became part of C. F. Peters in 1814.
From 1818 to 1837 during the summers he conducted military bands in Linköping, providing them with arrangements of marches and overtures by Rossini, Spohr, and Weber and composing pieces for male choir. In 1822 he published three volumes of songs to texts by the Swedish poet Tegnér and others, and in 1826 another volume, Frithiofs saga, with ten songs to texts by Tegnér. An opera, Lilla slavinnan (The Little Slave Girl), was first performed in Stockholm in 1824 and was repeated 34 times in the following 14 years.
Three clarinet concertos: Total playing time 73:58
Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 1
Completed in 1808? or 1810; published Leipzig, Musique de Bureau, 1811 or 1812.
Duration: ca. 22 minutes.
I. Allegro 10:44
II. Adagio 4:55
III. Rondo: Allegretto 7:15
Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 5 ("Grand")
First performed 1815; published Leipzig, C. F. Peters, ca. 1818.
I. Allegro 13:08
II. Andante pastorale 5:55
III. Rondo 6:05
Clarinet Concerto No. 3 in B-flat major, Op. 11
Composed ca. 1807?, later revised and published Leipzig, C. F. Peters, 1828 or 1829.
Duration: ca. 25 minutes.
I. Allegro risoluto 10:50
II. Andante Moderato 6:41
III. Alla Polacca 7:50
The Principals and Instrumentarium:
Emma Johnson: clarinet, Peter Eaton
English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwartz
Emma Johnson (born 1966) is a British clarinetist, who was awarded an MBE for services to music in 1996.
In 1984 she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, playing one of Crusell's clarinet concertos in the televised final, and went on to win the Bronze Award representing Britain in the subsequent European Young Musician Competition. She also won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1991 which led to her New York City recital debut at Carnegie hall.
Emma Johnson has released several CD's, of clarinet concertos and recital music, covering both standard classical repertoire and occasionally lighter tracks, including some jazz. She plays a Peter Eaton clarinet. The Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in E flat Op. 1 opens an orthodox sonata form movement: after an orchestral exposition, Johnson enters here as the clarinet plays a flowery version of the orchestral opening and Johnson takes the music through its paces as the solo writing displays at once all the possibilities of the instrument in the hands of a virtuoso performer and she doesn't disappoint the listener. In the rondo you hear the melodious sonority of a full, rich, ripe and mature clarinet, with a deep resonance capable on a fine instrument, this is one of the most beautiful pieces for the middle and lower ranges of the clarinet. In the rondo finale we hear a scintillating movement, full of bravura display passages that exploit the three different registers of the clarinet, now high, now low, in scale, arpeggios and figuration.
Clarinet Concerto No.2 in F minor, Op.5 is my favorite of these three concerti. Johnson takes that finely worked out first movement, through its paces, an altogether more serious work than the E flat Concerto. We hear the usual opportunities for a dazzling instrumental display, but there is drama and a poignancy that relates more by drawing from Romantic period than the Classical. The opening allegro there is a serious interplay between the soloist and the orchestral accompaniment as the clarinet becomes the eventual serious winner in all three registers giving the listener a real treat. After all the opening excitement, the Andante pastorale brings a more relaxing tenor to this concerto. Working the middle and lower registers of the clarinet this piece gives the listener a chance to hear Emma Johnson work a more melodious serious side of the clarinet. The rondo is a carefree song full of optimism.
Johnson and conductor Gerard Schwarz follow a similar pattern of like minds in Concerto No. 3. However, Johnson's initial lengthy solo run in the first movement does have a very comparable technique and brilliance of other soloists I've heard in this music including Antony Pay. It maybe not as bombastic, but the technical brilliance is prominent and is being encouraged as it emerges.
Her runs throughout the first movement, while highly romanticized, are of quality to represent the high level of technique from competing soloists in this repertoire. Johnson launches into another highly characterized solo sequence during the development section that better shows off her technique.
Schwarz supports Johnson with an accompaniment that makes the music sound more like Beethoven than Mozart...until the pair come to the second movement Andante moderato, where this music sounds as is if were written by Mozart. The finale is back to the more romantically inclined interpretation, clearly projecting Crusell as a composer that crossed over from the Classical to Romantic era. Crusell's adoption of the Polish rhythm, Alla Polacca, means there is enough bravura in this movement to impress any audience.
If you enjoy highly charged romantic concertos, then you will be happy with this CD, which is recorded well for it has a SPARS Code: DDD in the larger moments of orchestral tutti, you can make out distinct instruments. Listeners will hear spatial separation, a gradation in sound and full sound dimension
Clarinet Quartets: Total Playing time 66:06
Quartet No. 1 in E-flat major for clarinet, violin, viola and cello, Op. 2
Composed 1807?; published Leipzig, Musique de Bureau, 1811. *is the only one that opens with an Adagio, thus opening slower may give more of a mystique to the piece.
I. Poco adagio: Allegro 9:35
II. Romanze, cantabilie 4:55
III. Menuetto, allegro 4:01
IV. Rondo: Allegro vivace 3:39
Quartet No. 3 in D major for clarinet, violin, viola and cello, Op. 7
Composed 1821?; published Leipzig, C. F. Peters, 1823. * this is the only quartet that has four quite substantial movements, making it better-balanced sonata form.
I. Allegro Non Tanto 8:51
II. Un poco Largo 5:19
III. Menuetto: Allegro 4:44
IV. Finale; Allegro 6:08
Quartet No. 2 in C minor for clarinet, violin, viola and cello, Op. 4
Composed 1804?; published Leipzig, C. F. Peters, 1817. * is the minor-keyed work among the quartets.
I. Allegro molto agitato 5:56
II. Menuetto 4:40
III. Pastorale: Un poco Allegretto 3:50
IV. Rondo: Allegro 4:02
The Principals and Instrumentarium:
Henk de Graaf: clarinets, B flat and A by Herbert Wurlitzer, Neustadt, Germany
Members of the Daniel String Quartet
Itamar Shimon, Viola
Joanna Pachucka, Cello
The Clarinet Quartets were recorded on November 17-18, 2007, Protestante Kirk van de Rudolphstichting De Glind, The Netherlands. The CD's of this set were manufactured in The EU.
*There is a Quartet that is not included in this Crusell CD and it is Quartet in D major for flute, violin, viola and cello, Op. 8
Arrangement of Op. 7
Composed 1821?; published Leipzig, C. F. Peters, 1823.
Most of the major works for the clarinet were written for clarinetist who were friends of the composers: W. A. Mozart (1756-1791) wrote his Trio, K. 498 (for clarinet, viola & piano), Quintet, K. 581 (for clarinet & strings) and Concerto, K. 622, for clarinetist Anton Stadler (1753-1812); Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859) wrote 4 Concertos and various other solos for clarinetist Johann Hermstedt (1778-1846); Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) wrote his Concertino, Op. 26, Variations, Op. 33 (for clarinet & piano), Quintet, Op. 34 (for clarinet & strings) and 2 Concertos, Op. 73 & 74 for clarinetist Heinrich Baermann (1784-1847); and Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) wrote his Trio, Op. 114 (for clarinet, cello & piano), Quintet, Op. 115 (for clarinet & strings) and Two Sonatas, Op. 120 (for clarinet & piano) for clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld (1856-1907). Of these clarinetists, only Heinrich Baermann also composed for the clarinet.
Crusell's Chamber music is interesting, in that, he, quite correctly, treated all of the instruments relatively equally. Many works for clarinet and strings, Weber's Clarinet Quintet (Op. 34) for example, focus almost exclusively on the clarinet, relegating the strings to merely accompaniment; however, most of Crusell's Chamber works for clarinet and strings have interesting and challenging parts for not only the clarinet but also the strings too, especially Clarinet Quartet No. 3.
Crusell played an 11-keyed clarinet made by the Berlin instrument maker Heinrich Grenser - a fact worth remembering when performing his works on a modern Boehm system clarinet with 17 keys and 6 rings. The modern clarinet as we know it - excluding, at this point, other systems - is the Boehm or French clarinet as opposed to the Oehler (German system). The usual "black bear" variety, no frills, has seventeen keys and six rings. Variations around this model might include the following:
1. "Full Boehm" clarinet with an added key to the right hand little finger group to play low E flat. This model is called the 20 keys 7 rings. The value of such an instrument enables the player to transpose all 'A' parts on the B flat clarinet, or as in the Third Act of Puccini's La Bohème, the solo at number 28 - on the B flat clarinet - descends to the low E flat.
2. The additional left little finger E flat(G#) key. The duplicates the action of playing E flat fourth space to C third space with either the little finger of the right or left hand. It takes a bit of practice, but is well worth it. This key is standard on many models of clarinets produced by Buffet, Selmer, LeBlanc and others.
3. The "Articulated G#" key allows the player to make a very good trill from F# to G# - this trill and its intonation isn't particularly good on the traditional clarinet. When playing the Bizet's opera Carmen, the Second Act, Entr'acte solo on the B flat clarinet has an F#/G# trill; the articulated G# makes it easy. The other solution is to play the solo on the 'A' clarinet and transpose up one half step avoided the F#/G# and playing G/A - much easier.
There are even more sophisticated clarinets being made that have 20+ keys for those professional player's specifications. That said, Henk de Graaf does a very good job interpreting this music style and gets the clarinet to follow the music, with a style and panache. For several years, Henk de Graaf has played in various chamber music ensembles and with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble. Among the many recordings he made are a CD with romantic clarinet trios by Mozart, Schumann and Bruch; and a CD with the Clarinet Sonatas opus 120 by Brahms, a recording on which he is accompanied by the famous Dutch pianist Daniel Wayenberg. Henk de Graaf was born in Spakenburg, the Netherlands. He studied with Jos d'Hondt at the Utrecht Conservatory. In 1970 he graduated with honors and in 1973 he was awarded the "Prix d'Exellence." In addition, De Graaf recorded chamber music by Von Weber, Baermann, Crusell and Spohr, and a CD featuring clarinet trios by Beethoven, Glinka, Brahms, and Zemlinsky. On this last CD he again collaborated with Daniel Wayenberg. It was the first time this repertoire was recorded by a Dutch clarinetist. In co-operation with the Netherlands Wind Soloists and the Hungarian pianist Klara Würtz, he recorded the piano quintet op. 16 by Beethoven, and Mozart's Piano Quintet KV 452. Subsequently, de Graaf recorded Six Quartets by Rossini with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Wind Soloists. The Dutch National television made video and TV recordings of all these CD's.
These are very well-recorded CD's by Brilliant and only a few other labels, are bringing high quality recording to the audiophile that exhibit natural acoustics of specially chosen concert halls. It goes without saying that this audiophile label refrains from and sort of sound-modifying manipulation with reverberation, sound filters, or limiters. I noticed precise depth gradation, original dynamics, and natural tone colors. If you have a Blu-ray playback you will notice a marked improvement in the sound quality.
You'll be very pleased at the quality of both CD's and the music is just heavenly. I can highly recommend this set of CD's with 5 stars each. Emma Johnson repeats the success with elegantly phrased melodies, immaculate passage work and wondrously even trills, with a remarkable tonal timbre of a highly refined clarinet in all three registers. The English Chamber Orchestra and Gerard Schwarz again provide alert support, and this makes this recording an outstanding addition to an audiophile collection. Henk de Graaf has a special tonal timbre which he imparts to these chamber quartets and that has a lot to do with the Wurlitzer Clarinets. These are superior instruments and the recordings bring out the richness in the full-bodied tonal colors and timbre unique to these instruments. Along with the members of the Daniel String Quartet for support, making this a superior recording, SPARS Code: DDD 24 bit stereo recording giving a magnificent play back.