Crusell: Clarinet Quartets

Crusell: Clarinet Quartets

Dame Thea King (clarinet), The Allegri String Quartet


The clarinettist Bernhard Henrik Crusell (1775–1838) was more than a virtuoso writing works as a vehicle for his own performances. His compositions are today recognized as among the best in the clarinet repertoire of the early nineteenth century. The heyday of the wind virtuoso, during which he lived, came at a time when great changes were taking place in the style and taste of musical composition. The style established by Mozart and Haydn was first transformed by Beethoven and then considerably released from its fetters by the early romantics. Crusell played an important part in adapting these transitions to compositions for the clarinet. Early works for the instrument by Karl Stamitz and the virtuosi Michael Yost and Xavier Lefèvre had been severely restricted by the limited capabilities and range of the clarinet. Then in the 1790s Franz Tausch, the great teacher and performer, set unbelievably high standards in technical difficulty and range, especially as far as the altissimo register was concerned. At the same period Mozart, thanks to Anton Stadler’s extended clarinet, was revealing the beauties of the chalumeau register in a way which had never been done before. After the turn of the century Crusell followed their leads but limited his upper range, as did Mozart, to g in alt.

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