CARL PHILIPP STAMITZ: Clarinet Quartets Nos. 1 – 4 – Arthur Cambell, clarinet/Gregory Maytan, violin/Paul Swantek, viola/Pablo Mahave-Veglia, cello – Audite-92.661 multichannel SACD, 65:56 (Distr. by Naxos) ****:
Clarinetists know Carl (Karl) Stamitz, the mid-18th century German, for his twelve clarinet concerti; the most often performed of which is the No. 3 in B flat. This wonderful new recording of his four quartets for clarinet and strings offers a chance to hear great performers in works that should be played and heard more often than they actually are.
Part of why these pieces are a little bit of an oddity is, in fact, the scoring for three strings. There are so many superb “Clarinet Quintets” including the iconic Mozart and Weber – both of roughly the same vintage. So, existing string quartets and their clarinet buddies typically are much more interested in the works that involve everyone in the ensemble.
However, Stamitz wrote these wonderful pieces for his own clarinet acquaintance Joseph Beer. Moreover, Stamitz himself was a violist of renown and wrote viola parts to be as important as the violin part. Each of these is a beautiful buoyant work that challenges even today’s players but they are fairly direct, straight forward and simple in the best of ways to listen to. The slow movements are all quite lovely, especially that in the Op. 19, No. 1.
The performances are all wonderful. In particular, I have never heard Arthur Campbell before. He was a student of the great Robert Marcellus and has lovely, focused but warm tone. The string players, Gregory Maytan, Paul Swantek and Pablo Mahave-Veglia are equally skilled. This is a very enjoyable disc that clarinetists for sure and all lovers of chamber music would appreciate! The SACD/CD dual format is a bonus and the recording sounds fresh, lively and present throughout! [All SACDs are now hybrid…Ed.]