Notes and Editorial Reviews
Clarinet Sonatas: No. 1 in Ab; No. 2 in f#; No. 3 in Bb
Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer (cl); Hans Eijsackers (pn)
CHALLENGE 72199 (67: 03)
It’s happened again. Seven-odd years had passed since
had last received a recording of Reger’s Clarinet Sonatas for review—and that one was out of print. Then, a new version of the two op. 49 Sonatas appeared four months ago, from an unlikely source: France. I gave Florent Héau and Patrick Zygmanowski’s disc on
the Zig-Zag Territories label a strong recommendation (
33:2); my only complaint was that it didn’t include the third, and greatest, of the sonatas, that in Bb Major, op. 107. Now, a recording of all three arrives hard on its heels, this time from Holland—and it, too, is absolutely first-rate.
Clarinetist Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer is a young (b. 1977) Dutchman who studied with Charles Neidich at Juilliard on a Fulbright grant. He joins other Neidich protégés Sharon Kam and Reto Bieri (I reviewed his CD of Schubert transcriptions in
32:1) in the first rank of clarinetists of their generation. He has a lovely, vibrant sound that is seasoned, as it were, by a dash of vibrato in particularly expressive passages. In this respect he is a more conventional player than Héau, who is more flamboyant in the first two sonatas, playing with greater rhythmic freedom and with heavier and more constant vibrato. Interpretively, Héau’s extroverted readings are complemented by Wouters’s more intimate accounts. The difference is accentuated by the sound of the two recordings: Wouters and Eijsackers get a more spacious acoustic, while Héau and Zygmanowski are captured more close up, capturing the ubiquitous counterpoint and countless nuances of Reger’s music with greater immediacy. Both approaches work, and the listener’s taste in clarinet sound-concept may be the determining factor.
Wouters has the field to himself in the Bb-Major Sonata. As it had been for the op. 49 sonatas before the appearance of Héau’s recording, my reference version of op. 107 is the Karl Leister recording on Camerata. But Wouters, too, surpasses the dean of German clarinetists: the half-hour Bb-Major Sonata, a product of Reger’s later years, is one of his most accessible and expressive scores—in fact, the direction
appears in the score no fewer than 22 times in the first-movement exposition alone (44 measures)—and Wouters is more responsive to its changing moods than the sometimes stolid Leister.
Eijsackers handles the fistfuls of notes in the piano parts without apparent difficulty, and the balance between the two instruments is ideal. My only complaint this time around (some people are never satisfied) is that Wouters didn’t include the brief
, which could have been appended as encores and thus made this a recording of Reger’s complete works for clarinet and piano. Those two pieces are slight, however, totaling only about four minutes combined, and, if you must have them, there’s always Leister.
The notes consist largely of an interview with Wouters; one would like more information on the works and their background. The keys of the two op. 49 sonatas are reversed, both on the back of the jewel case and in the detailed track list. Otherwise, this is a first-rate production from top to bottom.
This now becomes my first-choice recording of the three sonatas, although I’ll want to have Héau as well, for his more dramatic, personal statements about the first two of these pieces; a sentimental attachment to the Leister recordings, as well as his inclusion of the two short pieces, means he’ll be remaining in my collection as well. Reger’s clarinet sonatas grow on you, and fans of clarinet playing as well as Reger collectors will definitely want this superb disc.
FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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