Andreas Ottensamer / Kammerakademie Potsdam

New Era

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The music of the so-called Mannheim School, written for the large and virtuosic court orchestra in the German city of Mannheim in the second half of the 18th century, has been out of fashion. From a modern perspective it doesn't seem to have contained the groundbreaking discoveries that were happening in Vienna. Yet in its own time the Mannheim orchestra (memorialized by the high-tech instrumental pop group Mannheim Steamroller) was, in the words of clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer, "a rock-star ensemble," famed for its brilliant individual players. The orchestra introduced various instrumental innovations, including the first prominent use of the clarinet, to which are owed Mozart's towering works for the instrument. Ottensamer, principal clarinetist for the Berlin Philharmonic, offers a varied selection of music from Mannheim, including one concerto each from the father-and-son pair of Johann and Carl Stamitz. He also finds some rarer music, most notably a Concerto for clarinet, bassoon, and orchestra by Franz Danzi. For no very good reason other than that Ottensamer apparently wanted to perform with his friend Albrecht Mayer, the bassoon part of this work is transcribed for cor anglais, but it's certainly possible to imagine the transcription being done in the work's own time. It is a small masterpiece of intricate ensemble writing that may bring to mind Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major, Hob. 1/105. Sample its ebullient finale, so much more varied than the rather stumpy Carl Stamitz finale. The opera-based pieces on the album by Danzi and Mozart are elegantly done and allow Ottensamer plenty of opportunity for pure technical display. A satisfying release, very nicely recorded at Berlin's Teldex studio.

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