Weber: Clarinet Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Clarinet Concertino; Horn Concertino

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Clarinet Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Clarinet Concertino; Horn Concertino
PERFORMER: Stephen Stirling (horn); City of London Sinfonia/Michael Collins (clarinet)


Weber’s clarinet pieces, virtually all of them written for the virtuoso Heinrich Bärmann, call not only for technical proficiency, but also extreme refinement of tone throughout the instrument’s range. The F minor First Concerto, for instance, has a dark and dramatic opening movement and a finale in characteristically perky style, but its most memorable moment is a long hushed passage in the slow movement that finds the soloist’s long drawn-out melody accompanied only by an ensemble of three horns.
Michael Collins, acting as both soloist and conductor, offers dazzling performances that make use of the elaborations Bärmann made to the clarinet part. He is equally at home in the intimate lyricism of Weber’s slow movements as he is in the brilliance of the writing elsewhere, and the cascade of semiquaver triplets that ends the Concerto No. 2 is breathtaking. The rarely-performed Concertino for horn makes a welcome bonus. It includes a set of variations on an already repetitive theme, but also a recitative in which Weber optimistically writes a series of chords for the soloist, partially produced by humming into the instrument. Stephen Stirling creates the illusion quite successfully, and rises to the challenge of the extreme technical demands elsewhere in the piece, too. Strongly recommended.
Misha Donat