Carl Maria von Weber: The Clarinet Concertos

Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Guy Van Waas, Eric Hoeprich

Carl Maria von Weber: The Clarinet Concertos
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Carl Maria von Weber: The Clarinet Concertos

Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Guy Van Waas, Eric Hoeprich

For more than four decades now, Eric Hoeprich has specialised in performing on the historical clarinet. His expertise as a musician, scholar and instrument maker allows for a unique approach to the repertoire of the 18th and 19th centuries. 

With his ensembles Nachtmusique and Stadler Trio he has also made frequent recordings for Glossa, while his collaborations with the London Haydn Quartet have yielded another handful of fine albums for the label, the latest of which, published just a few months ago in 2020, contains two Weber Clarinet Quintets and is a perfect companion for the current disc.

With a copy of the historical clarinet played by Heinrich Baermann, the clarinettist for whom Weber composed all his great works, and together with the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century as conducted by Guy Van Waas, Eric Hoeprich renders two reference versions of the two Clarinet Concertos that Weber composed in 1811 in rapid succession, and with which the two men toured throughout Europe where they were feted and adored. Hoeprich also includes on this recording a Clarinet Concerto by the Polish composer Karol Kurpinski, another truly exceptional work.

Review

Beautiful, lush romantic strings set this recording off. Then the clarinet enters, with a wailing sound – not at all what I was expecting. There is an edge to the clarinet tone, with a brightness that cuts straight over the orchestra. It was so unlike any recording I had previously heard of the Weber Clarinet Concertos that I reached for the cover, and Google, to learn more. A quick look and realisation dawned: this is a recording of the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, who all perform on period instruments. This is not the clarinet as we know it, instead it is the exact (yes, exact!) clarinet this piece was written for. And what power it has! You can hear the extreme virtuosity of Eric Hoeprich as he grapples with this unwieldy instrument and, for the first time, I get this concerto. I can finally hear what Carl Maria von Weber’s musical intentions were in writing this concerto.

After last month’s review of Vivaldi on the clarinet, I have to say this was a fascinating continuation that delves into the history of one of the most popular woodwind instruments. If you purchased the Vivaldi, this is a must-listen to compare and enjoy these historically-inspired performances.


Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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