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Weber. The Clarinet as Prima Donna

Weber. The Clarinet as Prima Donna


Weber. The Clarinet as Prima Donna

On his latest release for Evil Penguin Classic, clarinet virtuoso Roeland Hendrikx teams up with the Rheinische Philharmonie to restore Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) to his rightful place in the heart of modern music enthusiasts. As a leg-up to the festivities for Weber’s bicentennial in 2026, they revisit Weber’s Clarinet Concertos and two iconic opera arias on a recording that will be released on May 5 2023 under the title Carl Maria von Weber. The clarinet as prima donna.

Music history has not been kind to Weber, who is essentialized nowadays as the “first German Romantic”. But to fellow composers like Berlioz, Debussy, and especially Wagner, Weber was not only the first, but also the greatest genius of the early Romantic period, whose music was on a par with that of Schubert, if not Beethoven.

In order to transfer Weber’s 19th century fame to the 21st century, this record capitalizes on two crucial insights, viz. that Carl Maria was an operatic spirit in both his operas and his concertante works, and that his preferred lyrical tool was the clarinet.

But playing the Clarinet Concertos is no piece of cake in the absence of a conclusive Urtext: since Weber intended his soloist – “rock star” Heinrich Baermann – to be his co-composer, performers oscillate between a bare but authentic Weber, or an opulent but not altogether “Weber” Weber.

Roeland Hendrikx dodged the dilemma by inviting award-winning arranger Andreas Tarkmann to write a new cadenza for the Clarinet Concerto nr. 1, and to recompose the aria Leise, leise from Der Freischütz for clarinet and orchestra: the resounding result bears testimony to the veracity of the recording’s title: the clarinet really was Weber’s prima donna.

Belgium-born Roeland Hendrikx has enjoyed a fruitful career as a soloist and chamber musician. He rose to international prominence in 2018 when he recorded the Mozart, Finzi and Bruch concertos with the venerable London Philharmonic Orchestra, an accomplishment that “ha[d] it all”, according to Diapason: “accuracy, lyricism, elegance”.

For this record with quintessentially German music, Hendrikx engaged the help of the Rheinische Philharmonie, one of Germany’s oldest orchestras, and ideally suited for the purpose of this project as it is responsible both for symphonic concert programmes and for the opera productions of the Theater Koblenz.

The Rheinische operated under the baton of maestro Michel Tilkin, who made his name by conducting German orchestras like the Nürnberger Symphoniker, the Philharmonie Südwestfalen, and Thüringen Philharmonie Gotha.


1-3. Clarinet Concerto No. 1, Op. 73
4. Der Freischütz: Aria of Agathe "Leise, leise, fromme Weise” (Arr. by Andreas Tarkmann)
5-7. Clarinet Concerto No. 2, Op. 74
8. Variations on a Theme from the Opera Silvana, Op. 33 (Arr. by Rainer Schottstädt)

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