A Collaborative History of the Clarinet: Weber / Baermann

Heinrich Baermann (1784-1847), trained at Potsdam, served in a military band, and after a tour that took him through England, France, Italy and Russia he arrived in Munich in 1811, widely famous. While there, it was arranged that Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), who was visiting Munich in the midst of a tour planned to establish his reputation (Spitta 2010) would present some concerts for the Court, and he engaged Baermann to help him; for the occaision he wrote his Concertino (1811) for clarinet. Its melodies refected the human voice and Baermann’s personality; Baermann’s ‘…bright genial character and sterling worth soon won the young Weber’s heart. Carl Maria, always ready with his sympathies, attached himself in the warmest friendship to this excellent fellow—a friendship which lasted through their lifetimes. In their communion as artists, or in long years of separation, never was this friendship weakened….’ (Max Maria von Weber, qtd. Weston 2002; 121) The Concertino was so well received that the King immediately commissioned two full-scale clarinet concertos (Warrack 1968).

‘The reasons for Weber’s attraction to the clarinet are not hard to find. As in the case of other instruments, its technical maturity coincided with the appearance of a school of virtuosos; and despite various shortcomings, chiefy of intonation , it was rapidly accepted in other orchestras besides that of Mannheim during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. … Two years before their Munich meeting, Bärmann had acquired a ten-key clarinet that allowed greater fexibility and smoothness; and in Bärmann’s clarinet Weber found an instrument that with its French incisiveness and vivacity and its German fullness seemed to express a new world of feeling, and to match both the dark romantic melancholy and the extrovert brilliance of his own temperament.’ (Warrack 1968; 118)

The two concertos were finished in rapid succession. The first was finished on the 17th of May, the second on the 12th of July of the same year (Weston 2002). In writing these concertos, Weber’s popularity as a composer increased; many other concertos were requested from him by members of the orchestra, with only the bassoon concerto to be finished.

(There are way too many recordings of these concerti on YouTube… sheesh.)

Weber also displayed a passionate interest in the development of new or improved wind instruments; besides writing these concertos, he also published an article appraising the improved flute of Johann Nepomuk Capeller (Warrack 1968). He also attempted to write for a new instrument, the Harmonichord, an instrument that attempted to blend the piano with the violin:

‘Weber’s enthusiasm for the novel sound seems to have evaporated as he came up against the technical problems of writing music for it … he wrote to Gänsbacher that ‘it was damed hard work composing for an instrument whose tone is so original and strange that one needs the liveliest fantasy in order to blend it properly with other instruments….’ (Warrack 1968; 122)

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After the first performance of the second concerto, Baermann suggested that he and Weber should tour together. This tour provided a turning point in Weber’s career, who was previously regarded as a ‘musical fool’ (Weston 2002). In Berlin, for example, his opera Sylvana, was once performed badly and described as such, leading to Weber’s poor reputation. However, it was Baermann’s performance of his Eb Concerto that marked a turning point in Weber’s career, ‘for favourable interest was at last roused and people began to say that after all there was some fine music coming from the pen of the ‘fool’’ (Weston 2002; 124)

Baermann also collaborated with Mayerbeer, who wrote for him a quintet for clarinet and strings, which they worked on together. It was apparently a kind of offering of peace after an argument between the two men erupted after Baermann offered some unwanted advice on an opera that Mayerbeer was working on. Additionally, Mendelssohn wrote a clarinet sonata for Baermann, followed by his two Konzertstüke for Baermann and his son, Carl, who performed the pieces together while on tour in Russia. It was in fact Carl Baermann who made several improvements to Ivan Müller’s clarinet design, and it was the Müller-Baermann model that Richard Mühlfeld first performed works that Brahms wrote for him (Pino 1999).

(Gosh these guys move about…)

Pino, D. (1999) The Clarinet and Clarinet Playing. Dover Press

Spitta, P. et al. “Weber.” In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed May 30, 2010).

Warrack, J. (1968) Carl Maria von Weber. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd

Weston, Pamela. (2002) Clarinet Virtuosi of the Past. UK: Emerson Edition

 

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2 Responses to A Collaborative History of the Clarinet: Weber / Baermann

  1. Pingback: Index / Table of Contents (scroll down for recent blogposts) | heather roche

  2. Pingback: ClarinetFest® 2016, Day 1: Greetings! – International Clarinet Association

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