The resurgence of interest in music of the Baroque and Classical eras and the formation of now almost countless ensembles performing music from those periods on historical instruments have fostered renewed curiosity in the musical unknown. In some cases, the result of this has evolved into a situation where the details of the interpretation surpass the music being performed, but there is a more practical aspect to this evolution: the establishment of organizations whose purpose is to foster interest in the music of Haydn and Mozart's contemporaries, some of whom include Franz Hoffmeister, Antonio Rosetti, and Antonio Salieri.
The enthusiasm of these organizations has resulted in numerous scores, recordings, and concerts that further the cause of these societies. Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) is no exception to the trend. Music history has pronounced an indefinite judgment on this student of Haydn and colleague and friend of Mozart. While some of Pleyel's music is available on disc, we have yet to scratch the surface of his output, preferring to remember Pleyel by his later endeavors as a music publisher and manufacturer of pianos. Some posit that there was no room in the inn for the likes of Pleyel during the 19th century, and the unavoidable stylistic assignment of his work to the cubbyhole of Viennese classicism was the expected consequence, but others counter with the statement that the language of the greats did not always or accurately reflect the entire spectrum of musical life. But this pupil of Haydn earned his stripes and was the recipient of high praise during his lifetime. The high point of his career came in 1791 and 1792 when an invitation from a London concert organization--the Professional Concerts¬--brought him to the English capital, where he was to be installed as a sort of rival to his former teacher who was also in London and performing as a part of the Salomon Concerts. In order to diffuse any bad feelings between the two, the pupil sought out the teacher shortly after the former's arrival on the sceptered isle and strengthened their friendship. The result was that the two were frequently seen together and even attended each other's concerts, thereby refusing to be set one against the other.
Pleyel's widespread reputation as a gifted composer abounds in contemporary reports and correspondence from his colleagues, and his fame even reached the eastern shore of the young United States. The small town of Nantucket, Massachusetts, then still a whaling port, formed a Pleyel Society in 1822 "to chasten the taste of auditors," according to a notice in a newspaper. But the most significant evidence of the appeal of Pleyel's music lies in the thousands of manuscript copies that filled the shelves of archives, libraries, churches, castles, and private homes, and in the thousands of editions produced in Europe and North America. In quality the works vary greatly, although most show considerable ability and a thorough knowledge of his chosen profession. The music on this late 2008 release from cpo not only attests to Pleyel's effective and facile skill as a composer, but it also supports Mozart's deep respect and admiration for his colleague.
The first of the two concertos on this release was originally notated in C Major and published in an edition indicating it could be performed on clarinet (in C), flute, violin, or cello. This was because it was the easiest tonality for all three instruments. Pleyel ignored the trend to write for the B♭ clarinet and to write in either B♭ or E♭ major. However Dieter Klöcker transposed the Concerto to B♭ Major, allowing him to perform it on the more traditional instrument in B♭ and therefore to avoid the higher pitched and more piercing timbre of the C clarinet. The Second Concerto, while presented in its original key, also represents an effort to reach a broader market in that the cello is suggested as an alternate solo instrument. As for the Sinfonia concertante, it may be a reworking of previous and lost material for a concert series in Paris.
In my estimation, Dieter Klöcker has never made a bad recording and--with very few exceptions¬--he has¬ been consistent in introducing music-lovers to much unjustly neglected repertoire. These well-written and challenging Pleyel concertos are no exception. The technical and expressive demands are confidently confronted and easily conquered by Klöcker, whose technique is both fluid and fluent, whose melodic expressiveness leaves nothing to be desired, and whose tone is rich and woody throughout. The playing of the Southwest German Chamber Orchestra is confident, assertive, and precise with appropriate panache and energy.
Overall, this is another revelatory release and yet another winner for cpo and Klöcker.