The Obbligato Clarinet
The Divine Art (25025)

Eiriann James (mezzo-soprano)  Colin Bradbury (clarinet)  
Robert Murray (tenor)  Oliver Davies (piano)

An instrumental part second only in importance to that of the solo singer, and hence obligatory, was a device already in common use by composers of oratorio, cantata and opera by the middle of the eighteenth century and, often as not, it was a wind instrument which fulfilled the role.  Although a latecomer, the clarinet soon joined the flute and oboe as a favoured obbligato instrument, and in England an aria by Thomas Arne for soprano and two clarinets was performed as early as 1773.  Mozart, writing obbligato parts for both clarinet and basset horn in La Clemenza di Tito (1791), firmly established the place of both instruments in the opera house. 

Up till 1828 the obbligato instrument was usually part of an orchestral accompaniment, but Schubert, in writing a clarinet obbligato to his concert aria Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, elevated the instrument to the concert platform. Schubert's disciple Lachner was not slow to follow his example, but it took some time for the new genre to reach the drawing room. Spohr's clarinet obbligato part to Sechs Deutsche Lieder, for example, was intended for a virtuoso, Simon Hermstedt, but the rising standard of amateur clarinet playing gradually create a wider demand.  And whereas an impresario would always find it expensive to engage an instrumentalist for one or two items in a professional concert, the amateur clarinettist could always find an amateur singer with whom to perform, adding a fresh dimension, both social and artistic, to domestic music making.  As a result, songs with clarinet obbligato such as those by Kücken, Meyerbeer, Kalliwoda, Obiols and Spaeth soon found their way into print.

© Colin Bradbury


1     Franz Lachner (1803-1890)
         Seit ich ihn gesehen, Op. 82  (1831)
         Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (1832)*

2     Mariano Obiols (1809-1888)
         I Laj: romanza (1845) 

3     Louis Spohr (1784-1859)     Sechs Deutsche Lieder, Op. 103 (1837)               
         Sei still mein Herz; Zwiegesang; Sehnsucht; Wiegenlied; Das heimliche Lied; Wach auf

4     Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)    Hirtenlied (1842) *

5     Franz Schubert (1797-1828)    Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (1828)

6     Friedrich Kücken (1810-1882)    "Der Himmel hat eine Thräne Geweint", Op. 63 (1854)*

7     J W Kalliwoda (1801-1866)    Der Sennin Heimweh, Op. 236 (c. 1862)

8     Richard H Walthew (1872-1951    A Song of Love and Death (1898)

9     Andreas Spaeth (1790-1876)    Alpenlied "Froh, durch blüthenvolle Gründe", Op. 167

* Tenor, clarinet and piano

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