Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Clarinet Concert in A Major, K. 622
Jörg Widmann: Drei Schattentänze
Carl Maria von Weber: Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 73
Jörg Widmann (clarinet), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Peter Ruzicka (conductor)
Recording: Philharmonie Berlin, Kleiner Sendesaal RBB, Grosser Saal Nalepastrasse (May 2013, March 2015 & June 2014) – 59’34
Orfeo C 897 151 A – Booklet in German, English
There is much to enjoy in Jörg Widmann’s new recording of two staples of the clarinet concerto repertoire. Widmann himself writes about his delay in committing the two works to disc in the liner notes, and his experience performing these works certainly couldn’t have hindered his technical or musical understanding of the music. Evidence of intelligently preconceived interpretive nuances as well as spontaneous decisions come through in both performances, recorded live without patching.
Widmann’s tone throughout the disc is focused and bright, and he occasionally employs a hint of vibrato. This, and a penchant for dramatic rubato, makes his playing markedly different from his German colleague Sabine Meyer, whose recordings listeners may also be familiar with. Both are excellent artists, making the choice simply a matter of taste. Some will prefer Meyer’s darker tone and more straightforward approach, other’s Widmann’s brightness and more variegated interpretations of the two concertos.
Sandwiched between the concertos is Widmann’s own Drei Schattentänze (Three Shadow Dances). From the microtonal incipit of the clever opening “Echo-Tanz,” through the more substantial “(Under) Water Dance” to the brief but infectious “Danse africaine,” Widmann’s imaginative deployment of various extended techniques is both fun to listen to and compelling within the musical discourse. At slightly under an hour of total playing time, Orfeo certainly could have found time for Widmann’s early solo work, the now-classic Fantasie, but this may have upset their vision of a symmetrical program.
While Widmann’s playing can be recommended without hesitation, that of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin isn’t quite as satisfying. This is mostly due to the string tone, which seems to be verging towards a period non-vibrato approach in the Mozart. The result is unfortunately thin and, in higher passages, abrasive. The Weber concerto doesn’t suffer as much from this, the strings adopting a warmer tone and the composer exploiting colorful wind writing that is wonderfully rendered by the DSO players. These differences in overall sound are likely exacerbated by the different venues used for each work.
For a single recording of the two concertos, Sabine Meyer’s recordings with the Staatskapelle Dresden prove more satisfying from all standpoints. For those familiar with both, Widmann offers an interesting alternative, with the bonus of a fascinating new solo.
Marcus Karl Maroney