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 Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-09 15:45

At the age of 19, I decided I never wanted to hear, let alone play, another note of Weber. "Less Weber and more Webern" was my motto. I had been been totally put off the great man by mechanically and soullessly playing and hearing so many of his pieces in auditions and the like. Now that I am in the final throes of senile decay, I have changed my mind. His F-minor Clarinet Concerto, his opera Freischutz, the Duo Concertante, among other pieces, have made me view him differently. The trouble is how his music is often played: too fast usually well above tempo markings- technically rather than poetically and lyrically. It helps to have read ETA Hoffmann, Novalis, Jean-Paul. I don't know whether Weber himself read the early Romantic German poets that were his contemporaries, but they get you into the zeitgeist and offer indirect insights into his world.
How's that for straying off the topic of ligatures and Legere reeds?

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-12-09 19:06

Robert Marcellus often said the Weber Concertino is the best piece for clarinet.







...............Paul Aviles



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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-09 21:32

"The best" seems a bit of exaggerated, but certainly a fine piece. So much music packed into a short piece of so much variety.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-12-09 22:19

One reason recordings are often too fast is that companies record wind soloists, and orchestras program wind concerti by players, whom they consider outstandingly impressive, and fast technique that only a few players can pull off impresses a lot of people; musicality and stylistic appropriateness is not as easy to appreciate. That puts pressure on outstanding players to push the tempo.

Weber's pieces are great stuff. Their appeal is limited somewhat because it does help a lot to have some familiarity with the era to fully appreciate them, and also because he seems to have written them in a hurry, so they often need some editing and some parts aren't quite as polished as Mozart and Brahms. If he'd lived longer and found his Hofmannsthal or da Ponte, he'd have become much more of a Biggie, but he ended up with second-rate libretti.

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-09 23:48

Dorj: the 3rd movement of the 1st concerto is marked: Rondo: allegretto. It is usually taken at full throttle, robbing it of all its charm.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-12-10 00:00

I completely agree, but also don't expect to receive any recording gig offers.

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: brycon 
Date:   2019-12-10 00:54

Quote:

The trouble is how his music is often played: too fast usually well above tempo markings- technically rather than poetically and lyrically.


Whose tempo markings? Weber's? The tempo markings of the era (Hummel's and Czerny's, for example) seem to indicate things were played rather quickly.

Also, although Weber's Freischutz is in some respects a Romantic opera, the clarinet concertos are rather Classical. The F minor is more sturm und drang, like Mozart's d minor concerto, than full-fledged Romantic. And I think Charles Rosen was right to begin the Romantic era with Schumann and Chopin rather than with Schubert or Weber, both of whose music bears a much greater similarity to that of Mozart and Beethoven than to what followed (Charles Rosen, The Romantic Generation).

I like slower performances of the Weber pieces, and I also like faster ones. For me the character of the pieces can come across in a variety of tempos. But at the same time, I can't imagine a diva soprano with a virtuoso coloratura aria asking the orchestra to slow things down and approach things "more poetically." The drama in virtuoso opera and concerto performances comes from pushing the envelop (with tempos, cadenzas, improvised ornaments, etc.): "Is he/she going to make it? Or are they going to crash and burn?"

(Within certain parameters, of course: playing the first movement of Weber 1 at quarter-note=180 would obviously sound goofy.)



Post Edited (2019-12-10 01:01)

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-12-10 01:12

ruben wrote:

> I had been been totally put off the great man
> by mechanically and soullessly playing and hearing so many of
> his pieces in auditions and the like. [snip]
> The trouble is how his music is often played: too
> fast usually well above tempo markings- technically rather than
> poetically and lyrically.

Regardless of how modern virtuoso players record these pieces or how we react to those performances as adults, the first impression of them for many of us was in preparing them for auditions. It's hard to fault a 13-or-15-year-old too much for missing the poetry and lyricism, however much a teacher may try to point it out. The purpose of learning these pieces for many, probably most, young players is often an exhibitionist one - to play more impressively than competitors. That the result is often not only soulless but sloppy is reason enough that the students, having gotten through the ordeal for better or worse, don't ever want to hear or play them again.

It's good that we come back to some of the things we were forced into too young and thought thankfully we had left behind.

Karl



Post Edited (2019-12-10 05:08)

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: oldreedguy 
Date:   2019-12-10 04:22

Opus 26...I'll throw my comments in here...I like his two clarinet concertos too, but the concertino I know best...

I first heard that peace (yes, I'm spelling it THAT way) as a 9th or 10th grade 2nd clarinetist in the 1970s era Amherst Massachusetts USA Regional High symphony (yes, that school, in a town full of colleges). The soloist, a snobby rich kid named Eric Smith (went to some Ivy league, I dropped out out UMass as a drunk gambler and joined the Navy at 20) played the opening concert Ab of the Concertino and I started to cry. Yes, the passion of that piece, played by that teenage snob, touched me...and at age 38, at Univ of Pacific, Stockton, I passed an audition on that very same piece (unaccompanied, on stage in front of two UOP woodwind faculty), having returned to the clarinet 18 years after my boot camp band days (yes, I could have been a Navy MU but turned it down...). I dropped out and did other stuff, mostly choral singing and some clarinet/sax here and there...now, guitar/singing, posting originals on YouTube.

Theory...I have a BM in Comp and agree that Carl Maria was more classical than Romantic, and died so young, like Schubert, not even made it to 30...but unlike Haydn, who I think was a pretty "by-the-book" composer who lived long and prospered, Carl Maria had some passion in his clarinet works that is exemplified by the Concertino. That passion is more Romantic but the his theory pallet was pretty much classical, don't you think? And I fell in love with Schumann's Dichterliebe (ich grolle nicht was my go-to audition piece for many years as a first tenor)...

But it all started when I heard that concert Ab in the Concertino...it was a life-changer...

How one note can speak volumes!

Now 58 alone and disabled, barely functioning, I recently picked up two buffets after letting go of my horns earlier this year...an S1 Bb and a 1919 vintage A...I can still play a little. No more groups, just this computer technology. Maybe I'll play along and improvise on opus 26 again.

Thank you for the memory.

Barney P.

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-10 18:16

Barney P.: I was very touched by what you have written here. All my thoughts are with you. Keep in touch and keep the faith.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-10 18:27

brycon: Thank you for your erudite comments. I wasn't aware of the Charles Rosen book you mentioned. I've read "the Classical Style" though. Actually, Weber influenced Beethoven more than the latter influenced Weber. Parts of Beethoven's 4th symphony sound a lot like Weber. I seem to recall Weber didn't appreciate Beethoven, whose music was too daring for him. I agree that virtuosity has its place, and even "showing off" has always been a part of music-making and not necessarily reprehensible. On the other hand, there are many dances in Weber and if you take them too fast, they lose their "grazioso" dance-like character. PS: by "tempo markings" I meant the usual Italian indications of tempo; not metrononome markings. As far as I know, Weber didn't indicate metronome markings: the metronome was a very new invention in his day.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-10 20:54

There's a fine recording of the Concertino by Michele Zukovsky... my favorite.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: brycon 
Date:   2019-12-10 20:55

Quote:

I wasn't aware of the Charles Rosen book you mentioned. I've read "the Classical Style" though.


You should read it! It isn't as good as Classical Style, which is one of the great books of theory and criticism, but it's still very good in its own way.

It contains some very good discussions of central Romantic-era concepts, such as "the fragment" (think of the opening song of Dichterliebe having no true beginning or ending) or "the ruin/memory" (very famously, of course, in Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" but also later in the final movement of Brahms's fourth symphony).

Beethoven gets lumped into the Romantic generation because his personality contained so many of the calling cards of Romanticism: physical or mental malady, solitary genius, originality, etc. His music, though, as Rosen shows, is much more similar to Mozart's than to Schumann's.

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-12-10 21:03

brycon wrote:

"I like slower performances of the Weber pieces, and I also like faster ones. For me the character of the pieces can come across in a variety of tempos. But at the same time, I can't imagine a diva soprano with a virtuoso coloratura aria asking the orchestra to slow things down and approach things "more poetically." The drama in virtuoso opera and concerto performances comes from pushing the envelop (with tempos, cadenzas, improvised ornaments, etc.): "Is he/she going to make it? Or are they going to crash and burn?"

I'd very much agree with that statement. That being said, I see little need to go overly fast with Weber's pieces, as their drama and virtuosity might go lost. In general, our powerful and resonant modern instrument make his pieces so much fun to play that I really need to get my hands on a recording played with a Iwan Müller style (or similiar) clarinet. My teacher is pushing me to an even broader dynamic range, which on the other hand is fun, too. All roads lead to rome, I guess.

Here in Germany, Weber's 1st is probably the 2nd most played clarinet concerto, along with Mozart of course.

There'd be so much to say about this composer. Is he underappreciated? Not here in Germany at least. Can we overestimate his influence? Probably not, given that he more or less established the (romantic) German opera and reformed the orchestra's seating, besides intruducing the conductor's baton. But musicologists will have more relevant things to say than I can.

My personal preference, if not favor, goes to Weber for being romantic, but not quite (ie early), being dramatic, but maybe even ironically so and writing "difficult sounding" pieces. A friend who's talented singer and bassoonist presumed the op. 26 "super hard to play" - I think it's manageable. And then he inspired Wagner and Mahler, the latter having finished the opera "Die drei Pintos". Both Weber and Mahler have a certain "anti-romantic" appeal to me: Weber never being as "overboard" as latter composers, Mahler using an insane palette of emotions mixed with deep despair and hope at the same time, more or less thwarting typical romantic ideas.

Anyways, that op. 26 has to be manageable, cause I'm going to play it with my orchestra this winter ;) Really looking forward to it, I should consider myself lucky, though that's currently a lot of work for both sides - we'll see how it works out.

Barney P: I'll think of what you wrote about this and truly appreciate your heartfelt account. Music connects us all, and this is a gift no one will ever be able to take away from you.

Best regards
Christian

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-10 21:11

Kalas/Christian: good luck with you performance and thank you for your interesting thoughts on the matter. If ever you're in Paris, look me up and we'll talk about all of this over a beer!

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2019-12-11 00:46

He's done more than alright with his parents both being musicians, composers and teachers, his brother is a famous cellist, he was married to a Hot Gossip singer/dancer and what with stuff like Variations, Cats, Evita, Joseph, Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Starlight Express, Aspects of Love he's raking it in both in pocket and popularity (even though he plagiarised many works).

Oh wait - that's Webber.

Chris.

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: Plonk 
Date:   2019-12-11 01:11

Glad to read this thread as I've also felt uneasy at calling Weber a Romantic.
I've been listening to Martin Frost playing Weber recently - such a different interpretation. I love Frost when he plays more modern music but I find his Weber a bit odd.

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: donald 
Date:   2019-12-11 11:39

I do really like the Weber Concertino, but recently a conductor fell in my estimation when he told me that he thought the Concertino was a better work than the Mozart K622 adagio... To me, that rang alarm bells.

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-12-11 12:21

But it is! You just gave me the incentive to open a new thread "Mozart: An overrated composer?"

Jokes aside, the never ending debate (as seen on these forums too) on the gravity of Mozart's works can probably only be answered individually. At least in my case, I was more than glad my conductor was easily persuaded not to have me play Mozart and I'm aware how this speaks volumes about me, but that's just fine!

As long nobody starts questioning Brahms, we can all get along...? ;)



Post Edited (2019-12-11 12:22)

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-11 14:08

Nobody mentions Weber's Grand Duo Concertant for clarinet and piano. Yet its is a wonderful work and perhaps the first real sonata for clarinet and piano of any substance. It also has a meaty piano part that keeps pianists busy and happy.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: Jarmo Hyvakko 
Date:   2019-12-28 10:46

A fascinating insight to the playing style in the 1800's are the Baermann editions of Weber's clarinet music. The urtext-edition trend has done much damage to the 1st concerto...

Principal Clarinet, Tampere Philharmonic, Finland

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-12-28 11:25

Jarmo: What edition would that be? What company? Thank you.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2019-12-28 18:27

Henle produces both an urtext and Baermann version of the solo part.

Personally I fail to understand how studying the composer's original intentions can cause any "damage".

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: brycon 
Date:   2019-12-28 20:01

Quote:

A fascinating insight to the playing style in the 1800's are the Baermann editions of Weber's clarinet music. The urtext-edition trend has done much damage to the 1st concerto...


Yes, the Baermann editions do give you insight into one "playing style." But the playing style of 1869 may not be the same as that of 1811.

And I imagine some people might want to add their own ornaments rather than rely on Carl's, which are often clumsy (and in a few spots, if I remember, create voice-leading errors).

I agree, though, urtext editions can indeed be problematic. (And at any rate, they aren't an urtext: someone's edited them.) What's best are critical editions, such as the Barenreiter Mozart based on the NMA, which clearly show and explain all editorial decisions, played by a knowledgable and critical performer, who can make informed decisions about when to follow and when to deviate from the score.

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: Jarmo Hyvakko 
Date:   2019-12-28 21:09

The editions i have are by publisher Robert Lienau. I don't know whether that firm still exists. But it's nice that Henle has kept Baermanneditions alive. Lienau once wrote to me, that editions were made by Heinrich's son Carl Baermann (Heinrich's grandson was also Carl). I would like to believe, that Carl has wanted to save to next generations how his father used to play Weber's pieces, so detailed they are (phrasing, dynamics, tempi...)! Anyways, especially the first concerto differs very much from Weber's urtext, which is so naked, that it's hard to believe, that even Weber has meant it to be played that way. We must remember, that Weber and Heinrich Joseph Baermann were great friends and used to tour together performing Weber's clarinet music. Of course it is very interesting to embellish the music yourself, but trying to play the music very meticulously from Baermannedition is a very good learning experience which i warmly recommend to every clarinetist.

I must say that Bärenreiter's urtext edition about Mozart's concerto raises me some critical questions. Everyone should study the manuscript fragment that can be found in Bärenreiter's Mozartausgabe. But that's another story.

Principal Clarinet, Tampere Philharmonic, Finland

Post Edited (2019-12-29 11:46)

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-12-29 03:35

brycon wrote:

> Yes, the Baermann editions do give you insight into one
> "playing style." But the playing style of 1869 may not be the
> same as that of 1811.

The notes in the Henle edition say that Carl's rendering was based on his father's handwritten performance notations. There's no way to know, of course, what edits and embellishments really are Carl and what are Heinrich.

> I agree, though, urtext editions can indeed be problematic.
> (And at any rate, they aren't an urtext: someone's
> edited them.)

So often, it seems, the original MS score isn't available so a first edition or a set of MS performance parts are used as a basis. So "urtext" needs some definition in a modern edition that describes itself that way. Henle's notes are extensive with regard to both the "urtext" part (the piano score that most of us buy is, of course, an edited reduction) and the Baermann version.

Karl

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 Re: Weber: and underrated composer?
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2019-12-31 19:07

The discomfort that some people feel when playing, say, Weber I from an unadorned text (the B&H edition by Eric Simon, for example) is related to the discomfort those people may feel playing Mozart from the Bärenreiter NMA. The discomfort comes from the feeling that 'something is missing'.

But actually, nothing is missing.

What is present, though UNWRITTEN, is the conventional structure of the written barlines and the written phrasemarks, acting sometimes together and sometimes in competition. How you modulate that structure gives each performance an individuality and expressivity. The notations of hairpins, accents, added dynamics and so on cannot capture that style, which is why Mozart (though he had a pen:-) mostly did not use them.

I've gone into this elsewhere: see Phrasing in Contention.

This realisation of how phrasing and bar-structure work informs how we play 'the Bärmann edition' too. Then, that edition supplies suggestions for embellishment without compromising the underlying structure.

So the Bärmann edition doesn't represent 'how Bärmann played', when we look at it with our unreconstructed modern eyes. It represents rather what he added to an already existing style that persisted in how players of the time were accustomed to read the music.

Tony



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