SCHUMANN Music for Clarinet
It’s quite rare that a clarinet disc focuses on Robert Schumann. A clarinettist’s chamber repertoire tends to be built upon his great friend, Johannes Brahms. Schumann himself wrote very little for the instrument. The three Op 73 Fantasiestücke – composed over just two days in 1849 in Dresden – are undemanding works, often used as a gentle recital opener, while the Märchenerzählungen for clarinet, viola and piano (the same combination of instruments as Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio) was one of Schumann’s final works, four fairy tales composed in raised spirits following a visit from Brahms and Joseph Joachim. These are the only works on Patrick Messina’s disc which were originally composed for clarinet; the rest – including three Romances by Robert’s wife Clara – have been either transcribed or purloined from other instruments.
Messina has a wonderfully fluid tone, not as burnished as Karl-Heinz Steffens on another all-Schumann collection (Tudor), but lighter. Messina and his pianist, Fabrizio Chiovetta, keep the Op 73 pieces on the move while maintaining an element of fantasy (Schumann took his title from ETA Hoffmann). Joined by viola player Pierre Lenert, the Märchenerzählungen are winningly played – much livelier than Dirk Altmann and friends in stodgy form on Hänssler. The second, marked Lebhaft und sehr markiert, is strongly accented, making one regret that Schumann left no clue as to any of the fairy tales’ contents.
The three Op 94 Romances were composed for oboe. Schumann resisted attempts by his publisher, Simrock, to transcribe them for clarinet, arguing ‘If I had composed the original for clarinet and piano, the result would have been completely different’. That didn’t stop Simrock printing alternative parts for violin and clarinet anyway, and Messina does a persuasive job, the result sounding more introverted and autumnal than when played on the oboe, with its pastoral connotations. Clara’s Op 22 Romances, composed for violin and piano, are no less fine, Messina displaying cheeky wit in the trills of the second. An amiable programme, devoid of masterpieces but engagingly performed.