Clarinet Concertos by Gottfried Hendrik Mann: Osnabrücker Symphonieorchester, Hermann Bäumer, CPO 777 620-2, £12.75

This review was published on: November 22nd 2013

Clarinet concerto op 90. Violin concerto op 101. Festpräludium op 95. Troisième suite op 98.
Sebastian Manz (clarinet) Akiko Yamada (violin)

The late 19th century was relatively poor in clarinet concertos, so it’s always nice to come across a new one, even if the 1885 work by Mann recorded here looks back stylistically more to the 1820’s than ahead to the 20th century only a few years in the future. A point of interest is that the composer was Dutch; the very informative booklet tells us about his many contributions to Dutch music: symphonic, military, academic, and popular – clearly a useful all-round influence in Dutch musical life in the days before the Concertgebouw Orchestra brought it to international celebrity.

The clarinet concerto started life as a violin concerto but was thoroughly reworked for clarinet, very much in the style of Spohr and Weber – plenty of high notes, a final alla polacca, and a slow movement saturated in the haunting mood of opera. There are some charming effects when the soloist duets with the horns and with the clarinet(s?) in the orchestra. Sebastian Manz, a rising star and multiple prizewinner, plays it most beautifully on his Oehler-system H. Wurlitzer, with a particular sensitivity to the expressive pianissimos with which the work abounds and which seem to be the specialty of younger German players these days. Comparing Manz to his French contemporaries, one certainly cannot say (thank goodness) that clarinet playing has reached a boring ‘European average’. But Manz does do a brilliant Francaix concerto, as you can hear on You Tube.
The violin concerto struck me as much less interesting, with echoes of Dvorak, Saint-Saens, you name it, and the two large orchestral pieces are, I think one can say, justifiably neglectable, except as possible quiz material. But the clarinet concerto is something of a find and Manz is definitely a performer to watch.

John Playfair


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