Weber: Clarinet Concerto no 1

Carl Maria von Weber was a central figure in the growth of the Romantic movement in Germany. Born in 1786, he suffered a lifetime of ill health and died at the age of 40, in 1826. The multi-talented Weber was a gifted composer, consummate pianist and conductor. It is said that he was an astute critic, raised standards of performance and introduced fresh ideas, influencing many composers, including Wagner. He was a fascinating figure, aristocratic, intelligent and forceful, a genius whose tragedy was that he was born about thirty years ahead of his time. As a composer, Weber was interested in exploring the potential of various instruments and in exploring new possibilities. While the symphony was expanding and embracing Romantic ideas, so too was the other major orchestral genre of the period, the concerto.

Weber wrote three concertos for clarinet in 1811 (at the age of 25!) for the Munich clarinettist, Heinrich Börmann. The works, commissioned by King Maximilian I of Bavaria, were a great success and were first performed in Munich, then Prague and Berlin.

The well-known and popular First Concerto is arranged in three movements: Allegro, Adagio and Rondo. The main theme of the Allegro is introduced by the cellos and double basses, then by the full orchestra, until the solo clarinet appears with its own theme. The slow movement is a lyrical adagio, followed by the final Rondo which requires breathtaking dexterity on the part of the soloist.