Paris Album | French clarinet repertoire

Homage à Paris
French clarinet repertoire

The music is like a fine Chardonnay Dirk Altmann presents with his congenially shaping Japanese pianist these delicacies and makes the CD a feast of the senses.

Dieter Steppuhn

03/2016, Rohrblatt

Details

Label: EigenArt 1052-0 CD (2016)
Homage à Paris
Mako Okamoto, piano
Gesa Jenne, violin
Anne-Maria Hölscher, accordion
Ryutaro Hei, double bass
Aufnahme: 6. – 8.3. 2016 Bügerhaus Backnang
Recording and Producer: Andreas Spreer für Eigenart by TACET
Piano support: Dietmar Heumann
Instruments: JOSEF MK 11, Okinawa – Lighaphone, Paris,
Steinway&Sons

Altmann’s depth of expression is always remarkable, as is the versatility of his tone. The particularly delicate tonality of French music, this very peculiar combination of musical refinement and tonal magic, is wonderfully captured here.
Guido Krawinkel

Klassik heute 9|9|9

Recording highlights

Thank you …

It was a great pleasure to work with my colleagues Gesa Jenne and Ryutaro Hei, as well as my long-time chamber music partner Anne-Maria Hölscher. My unreserved admiration goes to Mako Okamoto, how she managed this huge programme with her sovereign composure. THANKS also to Andreas Spreer, who not only has the ideal equipment with his microphone darlings, but also the necessary empathy and reliable musical ears. And without the technical and tonal skills of my long-time piano doctor Dietmar Heumann, many pianistic nuances would not have been heard.

Thoughts …

And then! Another recording of Francis Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata?! The remorse was great to record this so strained work as well. After having largely avoided it since my student days, the collaboration with the conductor Georges Prêtre and his unreserved respect for the man and composer Francis Poulenc made me think anew about his work. Why does one not accept the deeply religious feelings and the fear of loneliness of a man who was ostracised by his rich family and who could not create a private retreat for himself because of his intolerable homosexual inclination? The Clarinet Sonata has many links to Poulenc’s operas Dialogues des Carmélites and La voix humaine. If one dispenses with the irony that is repeatedly invoked and the closeness to jazz, perhaps due to the posthumous premiere by Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein, what remains is very touching music, reminiscent of Schubert in its melancholy simplicity (Romance) and gruelling in its hopelessness (Allegro tristamente), which finds its abrupt end in a dance with the devil. /Dirk Altmann Excerpts from the booklet (full booklet see above…)Excerpts from the booklet (full booklet see above…) The first spark for this CD probably ignited when I left the Gare de l’Est for the first time as a fourteen-year-old schoolboy and entered Paris at daybreak. The summer morning sun shrouded the newly cleaned streets in an expectant light and the first cafés opened their doors. The sounds were still transparent and the smells connected the beginning of the day with the previous night. These first explorations were soon followed by musical experiences…The first spark for this CD probably ignited when I left the Gare de l’Est for the first time as a fourteen-year-old schoolboy and entered Paris at daybreak. The summer morning sun shrouded the newly cleaned streets in an expectant light and the first cafés opened their doors. The sounds were still transparent and the smells connected the beginning of the day with the previous night. These first explorations were soon followed by musical experiences… Now the situation of a clarinettist is special – after all, the world is divided into followers of the German or the French clarinet. And indeed, the respective system also influences the corresponding repertoire. With the expansion of my instrumental spectrum to both systems, my interest in French works beyond Debussy and Poulenc also increased…Now the situation of a clarinettist is special – after all, the world is divided into followers of the German or the French clarinet. And indeed, the respective system also influences the corresponding repertoire. With the expansion of my instrumental spectrum to both systems, my interest in French works beyond Debussy and Poulenc also increased… The clarinet reached its full flowering in the Romantic period. For the innovators around Claude Debussy, this instrumental sound probably seemed too occupied by Schumann and Brahms, and so the number of outstanding compositions for clarinet and piano is very manageable. The composer, oboist and conductor Heinz Holliger then drew my attention to Charles Koechlin. My delight and fascination with the “sound alchemist” Koechlin, probably the most important French composer of the first half of the 20th century along with Debussy and Ravel, was so great that I recorded his œuvre for clarinet on CD (hänsslerClassic 98.446). Thanks to Otfried Nies, the tireless director of the Koechlin Archive in Kassel (Germany!), I am able to present on this CD music by this great composer that has not yet been released…The clarinet reached its full flowering in the Romantic period. For the innovators around Claude Debussy, this instrumental sound probably seemed too occupied by Schumann and Brahms, and so the number of outstanding compositions for clarinet and piano is very manageable. The composer, oboist and conductor Heinz Holliger then drew my attention to Charles Koechlin. My delight and fascination with the “sound alchemist” Koechlin, probably the most important French composer of the first half of the 20th century along with Debussy and Ravel, was so great that I recorded his œuvre for clarinet on CD (hänsslerClassic 98.446). Thanks to Otfried Nies, the tireless director of the Koechlin Archive in Kassel (Germany!), I am able to present on this CD music by this great composer that has not yet been released… And then! Another recording of Francis Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata?! The remorse was great to record this so strained work as well. After having largely avoided it since my student days, the collaboration with the conductor Georges Prêtre and his unreserved respect for the man and composer Francis Poulenc made me think anew about his work. Why does one not accept the deeply religious feelings and the fear of loneliness of a man who was ostracised by his rich family and who could not create a private retreat for himself because of his intolerable homosexual inclination? The Clarinet Sonata has many links to Poulenc’s operas Dialogues des Carmélites and La voix humaine. If one dispenses with the irony that is repeatedly invoked and the closeness to jazz, perhaps due to the posthumous premiere by Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein, what remains is very touching music, reminiscent of Schubert in its melancholy simplicity (Romance) and gruelling in its hopelessness (Allegro tristamente), which finds its abrupt end in a dance with the devil. /Dirk Altmann

W.A. Mozart | works for clarinet

Wolfgang Amadé Mozart
Works for clarinet

In the many years of preparation for this production I kept asking myself, what was everyday life like for a musician in the 18th century? What drove Mozart, what might his relationship with his colleagues have been like? Were there fundamental differences, apart from technological developments, from today’s music scene?

Details

Wolfgang Amadé Mozart: Works for clarinet
Label: TACET 252
erschienen: 11/2019
Dirk Altmann, Bassettklarinette
Ludwig Chamber Players & Mitglieser des SWR Symphonieorchester
Kei Shirai, Konzertmeister
Masato Suzuki, Pianoforte
Aufnahme: 15.01. – 18.01.2018 in Stadthalle Kirchheim u. Teck
Recording & Editing: Andreas Spreer, TACET
Instruments: JOSEF, Bassettclarinet and Merzdorf, Pianoforte

… in the Concerto the strings act in small groups, and the bass section gives the overall sound completely new dimensions by adding a pianoforte. Altmann plays on a modern bassettclarinete fantastically beautiful.

Holger Arnolds

02/2020, FONO FORUM *****

Recording highlights

I know, there are tons of recordings of the everybody’s darling Mozart clarinet concerto! But! If you are serious and studious, you will find some new aspects. For example: If you play with a small, but agil ensemble, it is much easier to show the gestures of the music, without forcing it. To play with a Basso continuo group – in our case with pianoforte – what was common in the times of Mozart, makes the recording more colourful and interesting. Masato Suzuki was a great partner and we had a lot of fun during the recording days. That’s why we chose to play some songs by Mozart adapted for clarinet and piano.
Andreas Spreer is one of the best recording masters I know. The TACET equipment, with his old Neumann tube microphones is incredible. The musicality feeling and incorruptible hearing of Andreas is legendary. It is again a great TACET production.
Many thanks to my beloved colleagues from the Ludwig Chamber Players and the SWR Symphony Orchester. It was a pleasure! Not to mention the outstanding texts by Katharina Eickhoff and the wonderful booklet design by Toms Spogis.

Information about this production, excerpts from the booklet by Dirk Altmann

 Mozart’s Viennese years from 1781 were characterized by a great spirit of reform arising from the revolutions in America and France, an aspiring bourgeoisie and secularisation, along with numerous social reforms under Emperor Joseph. The Age of Enlightenment reached its peak in 1789 with the Declaration of Human and Civil Rights in the French National Assembly. Mozart understood like no other how to capture this social shift in his compositions. He was the most fashionable artist with the Emperor, at the royal court, in bourgeois salons and amongst street musicians. Neither later composers nor the pop icons of today have achieved such popularity among all levels of society.
With Kei Shirai, our Japanese-Viennese concertmaster, we have tried to make Mozart’s euphoria and sense of fun at disrupting traditional ways of making music audible in each bar, with each phrasing and articulation. In the quintet, the clarinet sweeps away the classical phrase introduced by the venerable string quartet right at the beginning with a “Haydnesque joke.” After that, it torments the first violin, makes demands of the other instruments in terms of dynamics and agility, only in the next bar to blend quite naturally with the string sound. In the concerto, the clarinet takes the place of a small opera ensemble, from lyrical soprano cantilenas, through virtuoso mezzo coloraturas, to a laughing commentary in the bass line. This is really not an end-of-life piece. We have consciously based the orchestral forces for the concerto on the string strengths passed down to us from the Prague Opera Orchestra. It seemed plausible to us that Stadler’s orchestra at the premiere could have been formed of 3 first violins, 3 second violins, 2 violas and a bass group. At that time, continuo playing was still common practice and so we added a pianoforte to the cello and bass. I would like to thank Masato Suzuki for his wonderful ideas and inspiration, which made the recording sessions a real pleasure. On a whim we decided to round off this CD with the two songs K. 523 and K. 524. I am also grateful to my colleagues in the SWR Symphony Orchestra. With them I was privileged to go through the “enlightened” school of Sir Roger Norrington, and the foundations of this recording were laid in the many years of his conducting at the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart

Debussy Première Rapsodie

Claude Debussy
Première Rapsodie for clarinet and orchestra

Not everything can be explained. Claude Debussy is on the programme, exclusively, and at the beginning Dirk Altmann, the solo clarinettist of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, plays the “Première Rapsodie” – so much for the factual. But how he manages to make the music just start, imperceptibly, out of nothing, how he breathes life into these dreamlike cantilenas, that remains his secret.

Neue Züricher Zeitung NZZ 23.01.2015

Details

Dirk Altmann, clarinet
Radio-Sinfonieorchester des SWR
Heinz Holliger, conductor

Claude Debussy: Orchestral works Label: SWR MUSIC released: 2014 Dirk Altmann, clarinet Radio-Sinfonieorchester des SWR Heinz Holliger, conductor recording: 15.06.2012 Stadthalle Sindelfingen Recording master: Andreas Priemer Sound engineer: Wilfried Wenzel Cutting: Irmgard Bauer Instrument: JOSEF MK 11

Dirk Altmann, clarinet and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Heinz Holliger Live from Ferrara Musica 1999

Charles Koechlin music for clarinet

Charles Koechlin
Works for clarinet

“Why is it that one is always moved when one thinks of Charles Koechlin? Because one cannot separate the rude man from the artist. His good-heartedness illuminated his music, real music whose bubbling inspiration was never strangled by science.”

Hélène Jourdan Morhange 1957

Details

Charles Koechlin (1867 – 1950)
Music for Clarinet

Florian Henschel, piano
Dirk Altmann, clarinet
Rudolf König, clarinet (Duo)
Sibylle Mahni, horn
Gunter Teuffel, viola
Johanna Busch, violoncello

Label: SWRmusic
Recording: Kammermusikstudio SWR 11.03.1999 (No. 1-3, 14-16) 17./18.02.2003 (No. 4-13, 17-36)
Producing master: Andreas Priemer (No. 1-3, 14-16), Roland Rublé (No. 4-13, 17-36)
Sound engeneur: Christian Leuschner (No 4-13, 17-36) Wolfgang Rein, Arnold Lauer (1-3, 14-16)
Piano support: Werner Singer (Pianohaus Fischer) Instruments: Buffet Crampon, Paris ELITE (clarinets) und Steinway & Sons.
Where to buy

Recording highlights

Although the Frenchman Charles Koechlin is counted among the great “polystylists” of music history, a composer in dialogue with ancestors, teachers and companions, he has nevertheless shaped his own unmistakable tone in his work. And this tone can develop the effect of a drug over time, clarinettist Dirk Altmann confesses. Listeners to his latest CD will undoubtedly agree, for this collection of short and precious movements, pieces and miniatures strings together musical moments of happiness, moments to which one wants to shout incessantly: “Stay! You are so beautiful!”

Wolfgang Stähr

18.04.2005 Klassik heute 10|10|10

The fascination of Charles Koechlin…

by Dirk Altmann When I first encountered Koechlin’s music, I could never have imagined it would be my companion for so many years. A work by Koechlin would fit very nicely, I believe, into virtually any programme of chamber music. The Monodies op. 216 of 1948 are for me what Bach’s Partitas are for a violinist. It is rare for a composer to pose an instrumentalist such fundamental questions as regards breathing, inner tension and tone colour, demanding absolute concentration on the essential. Koechlin was a committed pacifist and entered a period of agonized composition with the outbreak of World War II, an influence that also informs this work. The composer’s totally bewildered struggle for expression makes performing this solo piece a very great challenge indeed. Similarly with the 14 Pièces op. 178: sections of the piano part seem very inaccessible, and it is almost impossible to grasp the music by merely playing it through. You have to experiment with nuances of tempo and phrasing until you find a way in. Once you have found it, though, the music is like a drug: Darius Milhaud spoke about the »music of a magician«. Koechlin is also often described as an »alchemist of sound«. Koechlin takes us through the history of music almost academically, from the old Renaissance masters to his contemporaries Schoenberg and Stravinsky. He is no stranger to any style of composition; there are polytonal works as well as experiments with atonality. His main youthful influences were clearly Gounod and Chopin, followed by Chabrier and his teacher, Fauré. Koechlin’s compositions make no secret of his deep affinity with Bach. An extraordinary master of his resources, he became one of the most highly respected teachers of his generation. Poulenc, Sauguet and Milhaud were not only his pupils but also his colleagues, and they remained lifelong friends. At the time of his death on 31 December 1950, Koechlin’s techniques of orchestration were still a mystery to many people; he has begun to be recognized as an important link between Debussy and Messiaen only very recently. Although Koechlin first attempted composition at the age of fifteen, it was not until comparatively late – aged forty – that his technique of Fortspinnung, or the »spinning out« of musical motifs, became fully developed. The Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano op. 85 and op. 86, to whose classical sonata form Koechlin adds new elements in masterly fashion, date from this creative phase. The songlike opening gives little indication of the paths that are to lead us through a lush jungle of undergrowth, via arabesque-like middle movements to the brilliant finales. The work was composed for Louis Cahuzac, an outstanding clarinettist of his day, who gave the premiere of the Sonata no. 2 in 1926. (Cahuzac also played in the first performance of Schoenberg’s Suite op. 29 conducted by the composer in December 1927). Sadly it was not until after Koechlin’s death that his Sonata no. 1 was premiered by Jean Tastenoe, in Belgium in February 1969. Koechlin always hinted at an orchestration of the piano part, and he orchestrated both clarinet sonatas in 1946. It is wonderful that the clarinetist’s repertoire can include other works of this era alongside the Rhapsodie by Claude Debussy. All the biographical notes about Koechlin refer to his passion for the emerging medium of sound film and his obsession with Lilian Harvey. However, his endeavors to spare film music from superficiality were not rewarded with success. One such attempt was Koechlin’s score for the unrealized film »Les Confidences d’un joueur de Clarinette« based on an Erckmann-Chatrian novel (»Confessions of a clarinet player«). Kasper (clarinet) travels round the countryside with his friend, Waldhorn, playing at village fairs. He is in love with his cousin Magrédel (Romance). After rehearsing with his partner during the morning (Aubade), Kasper hastily picks a bunch of meadow flowers and hurries to his beloved (Le bouquet de fleurs des champs). But Magrédel harbours thoughts for another man, a returned soldier by the name of Yeri-Hans. Neither Magrédel’s father, Uncle Stavolo, nor Waldhorn, Kasper’s friend, are able to dissuade Kasper from his foolishness. The two musicians swear eternal friendship and let things take their course (Pastorale). Dinner at Uncle Stavolo’s brings matters to a head (Musique pendant le dîner). Magrédel’s eyes gleam with rapture when she hears Yeri-Hans’s name, leaving Kasper and Waldhorn perplexed. With Uncle Stavolo’s reputation as the region’s strongest man at stake, they set off together for a fight (Marche familière). After plenty of schnapps and sauerkraut at the Eckerswir fair, the moment comes for Stavolo to face Yeri-Hans (Valse rustique). But as soon as Yeri-Hans sees Magrédel, he realises what his true aim is. He lets Uncle Stavolo win and invites Magrédel to dance: »We’re here to dance; so let them dance!« Kasper takes up his instrument (Rage de Kasper), leaves his village the next morning (Lamento) and spends a winter alone in the Vosges mountains. At the end we see the two friends, Kasper and Waldhorn, reunited. Spring returns and they make music together to the end of their days (Duo final). Having completed his most important works for orchestra by the end of the 1930s – Le Buisson ardent (1938) and Les Bandar-Log (1939), based on Kipling’s »The Jungle Book« – Koechlin subsequently devoted himself primarily to chamber music. During the first two months of 1942, he composed the Quatorze Pièces pour clarinette et piano op. 178, miniature masterpieces in which we are Koechlin’s companions on his lengthy trips – not to smart luxury hotels or on cruise ships, but with a tent, a rucksack and invariably a heavy »Verascope«, a camera with which he took fabulous pictures. Spain, North Africa, Turkey and most especially Greece feature on the itinerary. Koechlin’s impressions are portrayed in sound: inspiring Greek mountain villages (no. 3), moments on the island of Capri (no. 4), a bustling market in Morocco (no. 11) and a charming lullaby (no. 12), to mention just a few images that come to mind. This brings us to the short Idylle pour deux clarinettes op. 155 bis, written in 1936.

Robert Schumann chambermusic for clarinet a.o.

Märchenerzählungen
chambermusic for clarinet a.o.

With sensitive, almost seismographic musicality, clarinettist Dirk Altmann and Florian Henschel on piano explore Robert Schumann's late chamber music. They capture the yearning tone of these poetic miniatures, they know how to capture the atmosphere of escapism and nostalgia, the unstable moods that imperceptibly, incomprehensibly turn from the most beautiful comfort into abysmal sadness.

Wolfgang Stähr

KLASSIK HEUTE 10|10|10

Florian Henschel, piano
Dirk Altmann, clarinet and basset-horn
Rudolf König, basset-horn (studies)
Gunter Teuffel, viola (fairy tales)

Details

Märchenerzählungen CD
Label: Hänssler classic

Recording: 08. – 10.01 1996 Christophorus-Kirche, Wiesbaden (Track 6-16) and 06.-07.07.2003 Stadthalle Kirchheim/T. (Track 1-5-; 17-23)

Recording & Editing/Producer: Andreas Spreer (TACET)

Used Instruments: Buffet Crampon Elite, Oskar Oehler; Fritz und Herbert Wurlitzer (Clarinets & Bassetthorn), Steinway & Sons (Piano), Viola, Mitte 18. Jahrh. Brecia

Piano support: Dietmar Heumann

Programme notes: Katharina Eickhoff

Program notes

Hindemith works for clarinet, bass and piano

Hindemith clarinet sonata, works for clarinet, double-bass and piano

"Hearty things from Hindemith's garden … The tracteurs colourfully and spiritedly trace the herbs and weeds from the master's little musical garden and prepare the ingredients with humour and finesse…"Hearty things from Hindemith's garden ... The tracteurs colourfully and spiritedly trace the herbs and weeds from the master's little musical garden and prepare the ingredients with humour and finesse..."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung FAZ 28.11.1997

"This is an enjoyable, thoroughly successful production in every respect: Rarely recorded works are considered - in the case of "Musikalisches Blumengärtlein" it is even a first recording - which are interpreted with extraordinary care and show all musicians to be masters of their instruments; the recording technique can be considered ideal in its conciseness and fidelity; the imaginative graphic design of the booklet paraphrases Hindemith's work titles in its own way, and the unnamed author of the booklet text (Christoph Ullrich, editor's note) adds a touch of humour. editor's note) contributes a contribution that is as knowledgeable as it is committed and original. One immediately notices the enthusiasm with which all those involved in this production were at work!.."

Giselher Schubert

Fono Forum 10/1997

Details

TACET Verlag 0059-0 CD
Musikalisches Blumengärtlein und Leÿptziger Allerleÿ" and other Works by Paul Hindemith

Dirk Altmann, clarinet
Martin Dobner, double bass
Jutta Ernst, piano

Recording: Christophorus Kirche, Wiesbaden Schierstein 1997
Producing: Andreas Spreer
Instrument: Buffet crampon ELITE (clarinet), Steinway&Sons (piano)
Piano support: Dietmar Heumann

Excerpts

Paris Album | French clarinet repertoire

Homage à Paris
French clarinet repertoire

The music is like a fine Chardonnay Dirk Altmann presents with his congenially shaping Japanese pianist these delicacies and makes the CD a feast of the senses.

Dieter Steppuhn

03/2016, Rohrblatt

Details

Label: EigenArt 1052-0 CD (2016)
Homage à Paris
Mako Okamoto, piano
Gesa Jenne, violin
Anne-Maria Hölscher, accordion
Ryutaro Hei, double bass
Aufnahme: 6. – 8.3. 2016 Bügerhaus Backnang
Recording and Producer: Andreas Spreer für Eigenart by TACET
Piano support: Dietmar Heumann
Instruments: JOSEF MK 11, Okinawa – Lighaphone, Paris,
Steinway&Sons

Altmann’s depth of expression is always remarkable, as is the versatility of his tone. The particularly delicate tonality of French music, this very peculiar combination of musical refinement and tonal magic, is wonderfully captured here.
Guido Krawinkel

Klassik heute 9|9|9

Recording highlights

Thank you …

It was a great pleasure to work with my colleagues Gesa Jenne and Ryutaro Hei, as well as my long-time chamber music partner Anne-Maria Hölscher. My unreserved admiration goes to Mako Okamoto, how she managed this huge programme with her sovereign composure. THANKS also to Andreas Spreer, who not only has the ideal equipment with his microphone darlings, but also the necessary empathy and reliable musical ears. And without the technical and tonal skills of my long-time piano doctor Dietmar Heumann, many pianistic nuances would not have been heard.

Thoughts …

And then! Another recording of Francis Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata?! The remorse was great to record this so strained work as well. After having largely avoided it since my student days, the collaboration with the conductor Georges Prêtre and his unreserved respect for the man and composer Francis Poulenc made me think anew about his work. Why does one not accept the deeply religious feelings and the fear of loneliness of a man who was ostracised by his rich family and who could not create a private retreat for himself because of his intolerable homosexual inclination? The Clarinet Sonata has many links to Poulenc’s operas Dialogues des Carmélites and La voix humaine. If one dispenses with the irony that is repeatedly invoked and the closeness to jazz, perhaps due to the posthumous premiere by Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein, what remains is very touching music, reminiscent of Schubert in its melancholy simplicity (Romance) and gruelling in its hopelessness (Allegro tristamente), which finds its abrupt end in a dance with the devil. /Dirk Altmann Excerpts from the booklet (full booklet see above…)Excerpts from the booklet (full booklet see above…) The first spark for this CD probably ignited when I left the Gare de l’Est for the first time as a fourteen-year-old schoolboy and entered Paris at daybreak. The summer morning sun shrouded the newly cleaned streets in an expectant light and the first cafés opened their doors. The sounds were still transparent and the smells connected the beginning of the day with the previous night. These first explorations were soon followed by musical experiences…The first spark for this CD probably ignited when I left the Gare de l’Est for the first time as a fourteen-year-old schoolboy and entered Paris at daybreak. The summer morning sun shrouded the newly cleaned streets in an expectant light and the first cafés opened their doors. The sounds were still transparent and the smells connected the beginning of the day with the previous night. These first explorations were soon followed by musical experiences… Now the situation of a clarinettist is special – after all, the world is divided into followers of the German or the French clarinet. And indeed, the respective system also influences the corresponding repertoire. With the expansion of my instrumental spectrum to both systems, my interest in French works beyond Debussy and Poulenc also increased…Now the situation of a clarinettist is special – after all, the world is divided into followers of the German or the French clarinet. And indeed, the respective system also influences the corresponding repertoire. With the expansion of my instrumental spectrum to both systems, my interest in French works beyond Debussy and Poulenc also increased… The clarinet reached its full flowering in the Romantic period. For the innovators around Claude Debussy, this instrumental sound probably seemed too occupied by Schumann and Brahms, and so the number of outstanding compositions for clarinet and piano is very manageable. The composer, oboist and conductor Heinz Holliger then drew my attention to Charles Koechlin. My delight and fascination with the “sound alchemist” Koechlin, probably the most important French composer of the first half of the 20th century along with Debussy and Ravel, was so great that I recorded his œuvre for clarinet on CD (hänsslerClassic 98.446). Thanks to Otfried Nies, the tireless director of the Koechlin Archive in Kassel (Germany!), I am able to present on this CD music by this great composer that has not yet been released…The clarinet reached its full flowering in the Romantic period. For the innovators around Claude Debussy, this instrumental sound probably seemed too occupied by Schumann and Brahms, and so the number of outstanding compositions for clarinet and piano is very manageable. The composer, oboist and conductor Heinz Holliger then drew my attention to Charles Koechlin. My delight and fascination with the “sound alchemist” Koechlin, probably the most important French composer of the first half of the 20th century along with Debussy and Ravel, was so great that I recorded his œuvre for clarinet on CD (hänsslerClassic 98.446). Thanks to Otfried Nies, the tireless director of the Koechlin Archive in Kassel (Germany!), I am able to present on this CD music by this great composer that has not yet been released… And then! Another recording of Francis Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata?! The remorse was great to record this so strained work as well. After having largely avoided it since my student days, the collaboration with the conductor Georges Prêtre and his unreserved respect for the man and composer Francis Poulenc made me think anew about his work. Why does one not accept the deeply religious feelings and the fear of loneliness of a man who was ostracised by his rich family and who could not create a private retreat for himself because of his intolerable homosexual inclination? The Clarinet Sonata has many links to Poulenc’s operas Dialogues des Carmélites and La voix humaine. If one dispenses with the irony that is repeatedly invoked and the closeness to jazz, perhaps due to the posthumous premiere by Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein, what remains is very touching music, reminiscent of Schubert in its melancholy simplicity (Romance) and gruelling in its hopelessness (Allegro tristamente), which finds its abrupt end in a dance with the devil. /Dirk Altmann

W.A. Mozart | works for clarinet

Wolfgang Amadé Mozart
Works for clarinet

In the many years of preparation for this production I kept asking myself, what was everyday life like for a musician in the 18th century? What drove Mozart, what might his relationship with his colleagues have been like? Were there fundamental differences, apart from technological developments, from today’s music scene?

Details

Wolfgang Amadé Mozart: Works for clarinet
Label: TACET 252
erschienen: 11/2019
Dirk Altmann, Bassettklarinette
Ludwig Chamber Players & Mitglieser des SWR Symphonieorchester
Kei Shirai, Konzertmeister
Masato Suzuki, Pianoforte
Aufnahme: 15.01. – 18.01.2018 in Stadthalle Kirchheim u. Teck
Recording & Editing: Andreas Spreer, TACET
Instruments: JOSEF, Bassettclarinet and Merzdorf, Pianoforte

… in the Concerto the strings act in small groups, and the bass section gives the overall sound completely new dimensions by adding a pianoforte. Altmann plays on a modern bassettclarinete fantastically beautiful.

Holger Arnolds

02/2020, FONO FORUM *****

Recording highlights

I know, there are tons of recordings of the everybody’s darling Mozart clarinet concerto! But! If you are serious and studious, you will find some new aspects. For example: If you play with a small, but agil ensemble, it is much easier to show the gestures of the music, without forcing it. To play with a Basso continuo group – in our case with pianoforte – what was common in the times of Mozart, makes the recording more colourful and interesting. Masato Suzuki was a great partner and we had a lot of fun during the recording days. That’s why we chose to play some songs by Mozart adapted for clarinet and piano.
Andreas Spreer is one of the best recording masters I know. The TACET equipment, with his old Neumann tube microphones is incredible. The musicality feeling and incorruptible hearing of Andreas is legendary. It is again a great TACET production.
Many thanks to my beloved colleagues from the Ludwig Chamber Players and the SWR Symphony Orchester. It was a pleasure! Not to mention the outstanding texts by Katharina Eickhoff and the wonderful booklet design by Toms Spogis.

Information about this production, excerpts from the booklet by Dirk Altmann

 Mozart’s Viennese years from 1781 were characterized by a great spirit of reform arising from the revolutions in America and France, an aspiring bourgeoisie and secularisation, along with numerous social reforms under Emperor Joseph. The Age of Enlightenment reached its peak in 1789 with the Declaration of Human and Civil Rights in the French National Assembly. Mozart understood like no other how to capture this social shift in his compositions. He was the most fashionable artist with the Emperor, at the royal court, in bourgeois salons and amongst street musicians. Neither later composers nor the pop icons of today have achieved such popularity among all levels of society.
With Kei Shirai, our Japanese-Viennese concertmaster, we have tried to make Mozart’s euphoria and sense of fun at disrupting traditional ways of making music audible in each bar, with each phrasing and articulation. In the quintet, the clarinet sweeps away the classical phrase introduced by the venerable string quartet right at the beginning with a “Haydnesque joke.” After that, it torments the first violin, makes demands of the other instruments in terms of dynamics and agility, only in the next bar to blend quite naturally with the string sound. In the concerto, the clarinet takes the place of a small opera ensemble, from lyrical soprano cantilenas, through virtuoso mezzo coloraturas, to a laughing commentary in the bass line. This is really not an end-of-life piece. We have consciously based the orchestral forces for the concerto on the string strengths passed down to us from the Prague Opera Orchestra. It seemed plausible to us that Stadler’s orchestra at the premiere could have been formed of 3 first violins, 3 second violins, 2 violas and a bass group. At that time, continuo playing was still common practice and so we added a pianoforte to the cello and bass. I would like to thank Masato Suzuki for his wonderful ideas and inspiration, which made the recording sessions a real pleasure. On a whim we decided to round off this CD with the two songs K. 523 and K. 524. I am also grateful to my colleagues in the SWR Symphony Orchestra. With them I was privileged to go through the “enlightened” school of Sir Roger Norrington, and the foundations of this recording were laid in the many years of his conducting at the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart

Debussy Première Rapsodie

Claude Debussy
Première Rapsodie for clarinet and orchestra

Not everything can be explained. Claude Debussy is on the programme, exclusively, and at the beginning Dirk Altmann, the solo clarinettist of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, plays the “Première Rapsodie” – so much for the factual. But how he manages to make the music just start, imperceptibly, out of nothing, how he breathes life into these dreamlike cantilenas, that remains his secret.

Neue Züricher Zeitung NZZ 23.01.2015

Details

Dirk Altmann, clarinet
Radio-Sinfonieorchester des SWR
Heinz Holliger, conductor

Claude Debussy: Orchestral works Label: SWR MUSIC released: 2014 Dirk Altmann, clarinet Radio-Sinfonieorchester des SWR Heinz Holliger, conductor recording: 15.06.2012 Stadthalle Sindelfingen Recording master: Andreas Priemer Sound engineer: Wilfried Wenzel Cutting: Irmgard Bauer Instrument: JOSEF MK 11

Dirk Altmann, clarinet and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Heinz Holliger Live from Ferrara Musica 1999

Charles Koechlin music for clarinet

Charles Koechlin
Works for clarinet

“Why is it that one is always moved when one thinks of Charles Koechlin? Because one cannot separate the rude man from the artist. His good-heartedness illuminated his music, real music whose bubbling inspiration was never strangled by science.”

Hélène Jourdan Morhange 1957

Details

Charles Koechlin (1867 – 1950)
Music for Clarinet

Florian Henschel, piano
Dirk Altmann, clarinet
Rudolf König, clarinet (Duo)
Sibylle Mahni, horn
Gunter Teuffel, viola
Johanna Busch, violoncello

Label: SWRmusic
Recording: Kammermusikstudio SWR 11.03.1999 (No. 1-3, 14-16) 17./18.02.2003 (No. 4-13, 17-36)
Producing master: Andreas Priemer (No. 1-3, 14-16), Roland Rublé (No. 4-13, 17-36)
Sound engeneur: Christian Leuschner (No 4-13, 17-36) Wolfgang Rein, Arnold Lauer (1-3, 14-16)
Piano support: Werner Singer (Pianohaus Fischer) Instruments: Buffet Crampon, Paris ELITE (clarinets) und Steinway & Sons.
Where to buy

Recording highlights

Although the Frenchman Charles Koechlin is counted among the great “polystylists” of music history, a composer in dialogue with ancestors, teachers and companions, he has nevertheless shaped his own unmistakable tone in his work. And this tone can develop the effect of a drug over time, clarinettist Dirk Altmann confesses. Listeners to his latest CD will undoubtedly agree, for this collection of short and precious movements, pieces and miniatures strings together musical moments of happiness, moments to which one wants to shout incessantly: “Stay! You are so beautiful!”

Wolfgang Stähr

18.04.2005 Klassik heute 10|10|10

The fascination of Charles Koechlin…

by Dirk Altmann When I first encountered Koechlin’s music, I could never have imagined it would be my companion for so many years. A work by Koechlin would fit very nicely, I believe, into virtually any programme of chamber music. The Monodies op. 216 of 1948 are for me what Bach’s Partitas are for a violinist. It is rare for a composer to pose an instrumentalist such fundamental questions as regards breathing, inner tension and tone colour, demanding absolute concentration on the essential. Koechlin was a committed pacifist and entered a period of agonized composition with the outbreak of World War II, an influence that also informs this work. The composer’s totally bewildered struggle for expression makes performing this solo piece a very great challenge indeed. Similarly with the 14 Pièces op. 178: sections of the piano part seem very inaccessible, and it is almost impossible to grasp the music by merely playing it through. You have to experiment with nuances of tempo and phrasing until you find a way in. Once you have found it, though, the music is like a drug: Darius Milhaud spoke about the »music of a magician«. Koechlin is also often described as an »alchemist of sound«. Koechlin takes us through the history of music almost academically, from the old Renaissance masters to his contemporaries Schoenberg and Stravinsky. He is no stranger to any style of composition; there are polytonal works as well as experiments with atonality. His main youthful influences were clearly Gounod and Chopin, followed by Chabrier and his teacher, Fauré. Koechlin’s compositions make no secret of his deep affinity with Bach. An extraordinary master of his resources, he became one of the most highly respected teachers of his generation. Poulenc, Sauguet and Milhaud were not only his pupils but also his colleagues, and they remained lifelong friends. At the time of his death on 31 December 1950, Koechlin’s techniques of orchestration were still a mystery to many people; he has begun to be recognized as an important link between Debussy and Messiaen only very recently. Although Koechlin first attempted composition at the age of fifteen, it was not until comparatively late – aged forty – that his technique of Fortspinnung, or the »spinning out« of musical motifs, became fully developed. The Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano op. 85 and op. 86, to whose classical sonata form Koechlin adds new elements in masterly fashion, date from this creative phase. The songlike opening gives little indication of the paths that are to lead us through a lush jungle of undergrowth, via arabesque-like middle movements to the brilliant finales. The work was composed for Louis Cahuzac, an outstanding clarinettist of his day, who gave the premiere of the Sonata no. 2 in 1926. (Cahuzac also played in the first performance of Schoenberg’s Suite op. 29 conducted by the composer in December 1927). Sadly it was not until after Koechlin’s death that his Sonata no. 1 was premiered by Jean Tastenoe, in Belgium in February 1969. Koechlin always hinted at an orchestration of the piano part, and he orchestrated both clarinet sonatas in 1946. It is wonderful that the clarinetist’s repertoire can include other works of this era alongside the Rhapsodie by Claude Debussy. All the biographical notes about Koechlin refer to his passion for the emerging medium of sound film and his obsession with Lilian Harvey. However, his endeavors to spare film music from superficiality were not rewarded with success. One such attempt was Koechlin’s score for the unrealized film »Les Confidences d’un joueur de Clarinette« based on an Erckmann-Chatrian novel (»Confessions of a clarinet player«). Kasper (clarinet) travels round the countryside with his friend, Waldhorn, playing at village fairs. He is in love with his cousin Magrédel (Romance). After rehearsing with his partner during the morning (Aubade), Kasper hastily picks a bunch of meadow flowers and hurries to his beloved (Le bouquet de fleurs des champs). But Magrédel harbours thoughts for another man, a returned soldier by the name of Yeri-Hans. Neither Magrédel’s father, Uncle Stavolo, nor Waldhorn, Kasper’s friend, are able to dissuade Kasper from his foolishness. The two musicians swear eternal friendship and let things take their course (Pastorale). Dinner at Uncle Stavolo’s brings matters to a head (Musique pendant le dîner). Magrédel’s eyes gleam with rapture when she hears Yeri-Hans’s name, leaving Kasper and Waldhorn perplexed. With Uncle Stavolo’s reputation as the region’s strongest man at stake, they set off together for a fight (Marche familière). After plenty of schnapps and sauerkraut at the Eckerswir fair, the moment comes for Stavolo to face Yeri-Hans (Valse rustique). But as soon as Yeri-Hans sees Magrédel, he realises what his true aim is. He lets Uncle Stavolo win and invites Magrédel to dance: »We’re here to dance; so let them dance!« Kasper takes up his instrument (Rage de Kasper), leaves his village the next morning (Lamento) and spends a winter alone in the Vosges mountains. At the end we see the two friends, Kasper and Waldhorn, reunited. Spring returns and they make music together to the end of their days (Duo final). Having completed his most important works for orchestra by the end of the 1930s – Le Buisson ardent (1938) and Les Bandar-Log (1939), based on Kipling’s »The Jungle Book« – Koechlin subsequently devoted himself primarily to chamber music. During the first two months of 1942, he composed the Quatorze Pièces pour clarinette et piano op. 178, miniature masterpieces in which we are Koechlin’s companions on his lengthy trips – not to smart luxury hotels or on cruise ships, but with a tent, a rucksack and invariably a heavy »Verascope«, a camera with which he took fabulous pictures. Spain, North Africa, Turkey and most especially Greece feature on the itinerary. Koechlin’s impressions are portrayed in sound: inspiring Greek mountain villages (no. 3), moments on the island of Capri (no. 4), a bustling market in Morocco (no. 11) and a charming lullaby (no. 12), to mention just a few images that come to mind. This brings us to the short Idylle pour deux clarinettes op. 155 bis, written in 1936.

Robert Schumann chambermusic for clarinet a.o.

Märchenerzählungen
chambermusic for clarinet a.o.

With sensitive, almost seismographic musicality, clarinettist Dirk Altmann and Florian Henschel on piano explore Robert Schumann's late chamber music. They capture the yearning tone of these poetic miniatures, they know how to capture the atmosphere of escapism and nostalgia, the unstable moods that imperceptibly, incomprehensibly turn from the most beautiful comfort into abysmal sadness.

Wolfgang Stähr

KLASSIK HEUTE 10|10|10

Florian Henschel, piano
Dirk Altmann, clarinet and basset-horn
Rudolf König, basset-horn (studies)
Gunter Teuffel, viola (fairy tales)

Details

Märchenerzählungen CD
Label: Hänssler classic

Recording: 08. – 10.01 1996 Christophorus-Kirche, Wiesbaden (Track 6-16) and 06.-07.07.2003 Stadthalle Kirchheim/T. (Track 1-5-; 17-23)

Recording & Editing/Producer: Andreas Spreer (TACET)

Used Instruments: Buffet Crampon Elite, Oskar Oehler; Fritz und Herbert Wurlitzer (Clarinets & Bassetthorn), Steinway & Sons (Piano), Viola, Mitte 18. Jahrh. Brecia

Piano support: Dietmar Heumann

Programme notes: Katharina Eickhoff

Program notes

Hindemith works for clarinet, bass and piano

Hindemith clarinet sonata, works for clarinet, double-bass and piano

"Hearty things from Hindemith's garden … The tracteurs colourfully and spiritedly trace the herbs and weeds from the master's little musical garden and prepare the ingredients with humour and finesse…"Hearty things from Hindemith's garden ... The tracteurs colourfully and spiritedly trace the herbs and weeds from the master's little musical garden and prepare the ingredients with humour and finesse..."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung FAZ 28.11.1997

"This is an enjoyable, thoroughly successful production in every respect: Rarely recorded works are considered - in the case of "Musikalisches Blumengärtlein" it is even a first recording - which are interpreted with extraordinary care and show all musicians to be masters of their instruments; the recording technique can be considered ideal in its conciseness and fidelity; the imaginative graphic design of the booklet paraphrases Hindemith's work titles in its own way, and the unnamed author of the booklet text (Christoph Ullrich, editor's note) adds a touch of humour. editor's note) contributes a contribution that is as knowledgeable as it is committed and original. One immediately notices the enthusiasm with which all those involved in this production were at work!.."

Giselher Schubert

Fono Forum 10/1997

Details

TACET Verlag 0059-0 CD
Musikalisches Blumengärtlein und Leÿptziger Allerleÿ" and other Works by Paul Hindemith

Dirk Altmann, clarinet
Martin Dobner, double bass
Jutta Ernst, piano

Recording: Christophorus Kirche, Wiesbaden Schierstein 1997
Producing: Andreas Spreer
Instrument: Buffet crampon ELITE (clarinet), Steinway&Sons (piano)
Piano support: Dietmar Heumann

Excerpts