Weber Clarinet Concertos Nos 1 & 2
Weber’s works for clarinet take only second place in the repertoire to those of Mozart and they are enlivened with a delectable touch of wit that is all his own, and which here the excellent young Swiss soloist, Fabio di Càsola, clearly relishes. It was a celebrated contemporary clarinettist, Heinrich Baermann, who attracted the composer to the instrument. He had a special clarinet made with 10 keys and Weber wrote a total of 10 pieces for him to play on it, all of them delightfully tuneful and with acres of roulades to test the virtuosity of the player, who here comes up trumps.
Such enticing works, admirable showpieces too, have received many recordings, notably scintillating accounts of the two concertos from our own Emma Johnson (ASV, 7/91), but Martin Fröst (BIS, 2/07) is hardly less seductive, and he, like the light-hearted Sabine Meyer (EMI), also offers the arrangement of the Quintet. However, I have to say that Fabio di Càsola’s performances are dazzling and Juri Gilbo’s persuasive partnership in slow movements is romantic in the best Weberian operatic style. The twirly-whirly Menuetto capriccio of the arranged Quintet is deliciously done, and the closing gioioso is wonderfully infectious. The performances are capped by the bravura scales in the final jaunty Allegro polacca of Concerto No 2. The SACD sound is splendidly atmospheric, so this can be strongly recommended.