Reclaiming clarinet repertoire: the reconstruction and performance of a selection of rediscovered clarinet concertos composed during the classical era
This study was undertaken to explore a practical solution for the lack of a comprehensive selection of clarinet concertos written during the Classical period in Western music. The study ultimately fulfilled its objective through the rediscovery, editing, and performance of previously unpublished or lesser-known Classical clarinet concertos, thereby supplementing the era’s repertoire choice for the modern clarinet player. The study commenced with identifying a list of unpublished Classical clarinet concerto manuscripts by visiting archives and searching through catalogues in European countries, such as Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. The vast majority of the centuriesold manuscripts were either incomplete or severely worn by age. Therefore, the primary criteria for initial consideration was the completeness, accuracy, and legibility of the available manuscripts. The shortlist of possible concertos was then preliminarily transcribed, and tested by me for playability, potential performance appeal, and academic value. After consulting with several renowned early clarinet researchers such as Eric Hoeprich and Albert Rice, four concerto manuscripts were selected from the preceding shortlist. These concertos included the Concerto for Clarinet in A and Violin by Franz Xaver Hanisch; the Clarinet concerto in B-flat by Joseph Christian Willibald Michl; the Concerto for two clarinets in E-flat major by Josef Mysliveček; and the Concerto for Clarinet in B-flat by Franz Tausch. The entirety of the transcribing and editing process was guided by a thorough literature study in the field of Historically Informed Performance Practice (HIP), as well as the history of the instrument and composers. The critically examined theoretical and methodological HIP frameworks included contributions by scholars such as John Butt and Richard Taruskin. The historical integrity of the study was additionally ensured by consulting applicable literature by researchers such as Rice, Hoeprich, Pearson, and Lawson. The final editing of the scores was the result of my unusual choice to publish the concertos with string quartet accompaniment, instead of full orchestra. This decision was strongly influenced by the limited availability of local resources such as venues, professional musicians, proper instruments, and general funding. The string quartet option alleviated these issues whilst supporting the continual aim of this study, i.e. to allow previously inaccessible concertos to be readily available for performance and within reach of as many performers, who can meet the interpretive demands of the edited concertos, as possible. The edited concerto scores were exported as pdf files using the Sibelius score writer program. These scores were then distributed by me (an experienced early clarinet player) and the University of the Free State’s Odeion String Quartet for rehearsals and final review. The concerto editions were then completed, and a well-received performance of each followed. The subsequent success of the concerto performances reinforced the idea that producing scores for smaller settings allow for more performance possibilities, regardless of various financial and demographic limitations. Ultimately, four concertos were identified, edited, and performed. There are still myriad less-known, less frequently performed Classical clarinet concertos that remain unpublished or that are no longer in print, with which clarinettists should ideally be able to expand their repertoire and knowledge. It is hoped that the present study may serve as an inspiration for more editions of such concertos to be prepared. Finally, the study’s contribution to the available Classical clarinet repertoire has the potential to stimulate a reconsideration of the established repertoire, such as the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, thereby helping to reinvigorate clarinettists’ historical-contextual interpretational skills.