New recordings of early-Romantic quintets by the supreme clarinet virtuoso of his day, an inspiration to Weber and Mendelssohn but also an accomplished composer in his own right.
Heinrich Baermann followed in his father’s footsteps as a military musician in Prussian Germany, but his career took off once he met Carl Maria von Weber in 1811. Weber was immediately taken with the French-accented brilliance and German richness of tone which Baermann drew from his instrument, and began to write a series of works – including two concertos and a concertino – which still rank among his most inspired instrumental pieces, as well as defining a new sound and reach for the clarinet as a solo instrument Mozart had made a poet out of the clarinet, with his pieces for Anton Stadler; now thanks to Baermann, it could take on multiple roles, as leader, jester, and magus-like figure to complement the likes of Paganini on the violin and Giuliani on the guitar.
Weber pushed Baermann’s technique to new heights of facility and eloquence, which in return inflected Baermann’s own works for his instrument with comparable ambition. He wrote three quintets for clarinet and string ensemble, the first of them more concerto-like in character, the latter two full-scale chamber works. They have been recorded complete only once before, making this new album from a fine team of Dutch musicians all the more welcome.
Especially impressive are the slow movements of the quintets, cast as arias without words in order to capitalise on the fluid legato of Baermann’s playing, but formed with an economy of means which leaves their themes lingering in the mind’s ear. The Adagio of the Op.23 Quintet was misattributed to Richard Wagner for many years, which speaks for Baermann’s craftsmanship, even if its harmonic language evidently belongs to a generation or two after Mozart. Now restored to its rightful place, the Adagio is the crown jewel, but there are treasures in store throughout Baermann’s clarinet quintets.
- Heinrich Baermann (1784-1847) is counted among the most famous and influential clarinet players of music history. He was solo clarinet player at the court of Prince Louis Ferdinand von Preußen, later he moved to the court of Munich of King Maximilian I, which boasted one of the best orchestras of the time.
- Baermann composed extensively for his instrument, and this new recording presents three substantial Clarinet Quintets, masterpieces in their genre, bringing out all the qualities of his beloved reed instrument the clarinet, in a rich, romantic idiom.
- Excellent playing by Henk de Graaf, former solo clarinettist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, who already successfully recorded the Crusell Clarinet Quartets (BC93682), Octet Partitas by Krommer (BC93759) and Clarinet Concertos by Molter (BC93337). His musical partners form the Schubert Consort, featuring Elisabeth Perry (violin), Itamar Shimon (violin), Richard Wolfe (viola) and Wladislav Warenberg (cello).