Have you heard of Antonio Casimir Cartellieri? Do you remember that he shared the program with Beethoven at the latter's first public concert in Vienna in 1795? I did not, though the fact is noted by Thayer. Our favorite clarinet musical archeologist, Dieter Klöcker, has discovered a genuine treasure this time. Cartellieri (1772-1807) composed three clarinet Hit concertos; the first and the third survive and are presented here. Both are amazing--significant additions to the clarinet concerto repertory. One hears distinct echoes of Mozart's concerto (Anton Stadler himself served as adviser to Cartellieri) as well as suggestions of Weber's great works in this genre. One also hears orchestrations worthy of Haydn and reminiscent of the Beethoven of the First Symphony, with melodies that are beautiful and long-breathed. The writing for clarinet is a major step above mere technical display; it is expressive as well as technically spectacular. At the least, these works rank with works by Krommer, Stamitz, Crusell, and Weber in the top of the second tier of concertos. Mozart's of course occupying the first tier all alone.
The music is full of pleasant surprises. For example, in the first concerto Rondo with Variations the razzle-dazzle variations are interspersed with variations marked lento or adagio. These are moving and make striking changes in mood. Wonderful accompaniment by winds makes for lovely sounds and adds depth to the music. The only movement to survive from Cartellieri's second concerto is the Adagio Pastorale. If the beautiful, languid theme sounds familiar, it is because Mendelssohn purloined it for the slow movement of his clarinet sonata. Klöcker seems to consider Cartellieri a major composer, and I am not going to contradict him. I hope this recording (and a disc of double clarinet concertos that is in the works) will entice other clarinetists to take this music to concert audiences.
Klöcker is an ideal advocate for these works. His pure tone (perhaps a bit thin), splendid technique, and remarkable breath control are just right. Indeed, his playing is flawless, as is the orchestra.
MD+G's production is exemplary. The recorded sound is wonderful: natural timbres and a genuine sense of space that justifies MD+G's claim to be an audiophile label. The extensive notes by Klöcker on the era, the music, and the composer should be required reading for other recording companies to show them what can be done and what purchasers deserve. I expect this disc to be on my best of the year list.
American Record Guide