KOZELUCH Clarinet Concertos: No. 1 in Eb; No. 2 in Eb. Sonata concertante in Eb • Dieter Klöcker (cl); Milan Lajík, cond; Prague CO • ORFEO 193 061 (69:21)
With Jan Antonin Koželuh (1747–1818), we find that—like many Bohemian subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including Jan Waczlaw Stamic (Johann Stamitz) and Anton Rössler (Antonio Rosetti)—the spelling of his name was altered and usually was written as Leopold Kozeluch, although there are instances where it is seen partially inRead more Latin, i.e., Iohannes Antonius Kotzeluch. Kozeluch—to adopt the form generally used in the musical world today—was one of many Bohemians whose desire for fame and fortune took them to Europe’s great musical centers, including Mannheim, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Paris, and London. There is an 18th-century map showing lines radiating from Bohemia to these and other cities and the lines are so numerous that they resemble a spider’s web. It was Bohemia’s national musical fecundity that prompted Dr. Charles Burney, the well-known 18th-century traveler and writer on music, to refer to Bohemia as the conservatory of Europe.
Among the little country’s musical progeny was Kozeluch, termed in The New Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians “one of the foremost representatives of Czech [Bohemian, to be politically correct] music in 18th-century Vienna.” It appears that Kozeluch was a declared adversary and critic of Mozart, as contemporary accounts indicate that Kozeluch—with the help of Antonio Salieri—tried to establish himself as Mozart’s rival. Nine years after Mozart’s death, Friedrich Rochlitz noted in the Allemeine Musikalisches Zeitung, “Kozeluch expressed his mind too volubly,” and further on we read, “envy and obsessive criticism are not the way to surpass a great man.”
First and foremost, Kozeluch was a secular composer. His musical legacy extends to some 420 separate works, including arrangements of his and other composers’ works. The bottom line though, is a catalog of some 250 original compositions, including 11 symphonies, 22 keyboard concertos, and two for the clarinet, the last not listed in TNG.
There are four concerted works for clarinet that bear Kozeluch’s signature, but the Czech clarinetist Jirí Kratochvil maintains that one was written by Leopold’s cousin, Antonin, so it has been eliminated from this recording. Of the three works on this Orfeo release, the Sonata concertante in Eb is almost one-of-a-kind, joining a similar work by one Franz Bühler (1760–1823). The first concerto is indebted to the Mannheim School, while the second, written for the German virtuoso Josef Beer, is (according to Dieter Klöcker’s copious and erudite annotations) based upon the popular Clarinet Concerto No. 3 in Bb by Kozeluch’s countryman, Carl Stamitz, but the Kozeluch concertos are far superior to anything Stamitz wrote for the instrument and along with the concertos of Franz Krommer, run a close second to Mozart’s lone clarinet concerto.
Dieter Klöcker’s musical instincts are unfailing; he has continuously and consistently brought forth a great deal of lovely and neglected—not negligible—music for his chosen instrument and each new release is a musical epiphany. Much of the repertoire he has chosen, including music of Soleré, Bärmann, and Schacht, still exists in only his recordings and where other works have seen additional recordings since Klöcker’s premieres, his remain benchmark.
The first concerto of Kozeluch is included with works by Krommer and Crusell on a well-played ASV CD of 18th- and early 19th-century concertos played by Emma Johnson (ASV 763). A search of the Sanctuary Classics Web site reveals that the 1997 disc is still available, so if one is in search of a broader picture of the late-Classical and early-Romantic clarinet concerto repertoire, then this would be the way to go. But the decision of Orfeo and Klöcker to issue an entire disc of Kozeluch is wholly in keeping with the way they go about things and should not be overlooked by those with the slightest curiosity. I should also point out that Klöcker plays a clarinet fitted with the Oehler fingering system (standard, I believe, in the German-speaking countries) and a wooden mouthpiece with the reed held in place in the old-fashioned manner by string, the combination of these most surely accounting for his unusual tone quality.
Both recordings are lively, well played, and equally well recorded, with Klöcker’s Orfeo offering a more distant perspective and therefore a hint of concert hall realism. Violinist Milan Lajcík and his colleagues in the Prague Chamber Orchestra are more than up to the tasks offered by these works. The orchestral support is beyond reproach, with unforced directness, poise, and verve that is totally void of metrical stiffness. Another star in the crowns of both Orfeo and Dieter Klöcker.
Concerto for Clarinet no 1 in E flat majorby Leopold Anton Kozeluch Performer:
Dieter Klöcker (Clarinet)
Prague Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical Written: by 1789; Vienna
Sonata concertante in E flat majorby Leopold Anton Kozeluch Performer:
Dieter Klöcker (Clarinet)
Prague Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical Written: Vienna, Austria