Home listening: step up, Franz Clement and Henry Litolff

These two overlooked composers are well served by two new recordings. And 20 glorious years of Radio 3’s New Generation Artists

• We’re going to hear a great deal of Beethoven this year, the 250th anniversary of his birth, but what of the music that shaped and influenced him, so much of it forgotten today? The German conductor Reinhard Goebel aims to enlighten us in a new Sony Classical series entitled Beethoven’s World.

It begins with a first-rate recording of Violin Concertos Nos 1 and 2 by Franz Joseph Clement (1780-1842). This virtuoso gave the 1805 premiere of his own first violin concerto in D major in the same concert that his friend Beethoven’s Symphony No 3 “Eroica” was unleashed on a wary world. Clement’s concerto received a warmer reception than Beethoven’s symphony, but that didn’t stop Beethoven writing his own now far more famous Op 61 Violin Concerto in D major for Clement the following year, and dedicating it to him. This in turn inspired Clement to write his second violin concerto, in D minor, recorded here for the first time.

While Clement’s writing lacks the audacity of Beethoven’s, he points the way in terms of structure, style and orchestration, with silvery melodic lines that spring from within the orchestral texture, rather than merely gliding over an accompaniment. Clement’s second concerto is a sweetly grave homage to Beethoven, complete with strikingly imitative writing for woodwind and timpani. Soloist Mirijam Contzen produces a ravishing sound, complemented by the suave playing of the WDR Symphony Orchestra.

Listen to an album trailer for Henry Litolff’s Piano Trios.

• And talking of neglected composers, the colourful Henry Litolff (1818-91), pianist and jailbird (he escaped a debtor’s prison in a farm cart, aided by the jailer’s daughter), wrote music of excitable, high-octane brilliance, as his two Piano Trios (Hyperion) attest. The Leonore Piano Trio haul these dazzling delights back into the daylight with suitably virtuosic verve. Prepare to have your pulse rate raised.

• As the BBC comes under fire from a hostile government, it’s worth marking the many tremendous things the licence fee does for music in this country. Go to BBC Sounds and listen to Radio 3’s New Generation Artists day, a 20th anniversary celebration of a scheme that has launched more than 100 exceptional talents. Back off, barbarians.

Contributor

Stephen Pritchard

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Home listening: a good week for Stravinsky
The RLPO and Petrenko dazzle in The Firebird, while the Mariinsky Orchestra and Gergiev make Petrushka their own

Fiona Maddocks

23, Dec, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Classical home listening: Penderecki, Fauré and more
The late Polish composer’s chamber music is a treasure trove for the Tippett Quartet

Fiona Maddocks

10, Jul, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Home listening: where Beethoven, Shostakovich and Bach meet
Sparkling new releases from the Danish String Quartet, the DSCH-Shostakovich Ensemble and James Rhodes

Fiona Maddocks

02, Dec, 2018 @7:59 AM

Article image
Classical home listening: Vaughan Williams, Paganini and Ysaÿe
The LSO and Pappano fire on all cylinders in RVW’s Symphonies 4 and 6. And Alina Ibragimova’s Paganini Caprices astound

Fiona Maddocks

24, Apr, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Home listening: Vaughan Williams, Frank Martin and Kenneth Leighton
The RLPO concludes its magnificent Vaughan Williams symphony cycle. Plus, two masses for double choir

Fiona Maddocks

26, May, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Home listening: Howard Skempton piano works and more
Take two pianists and a druid princess…

Fiona Maddocks

16, Feb, 2020 @5:30 AM

Article image
Home listening: a good week for keyboard wizards
Each in their own way, Martin James Bartlett and John Challenger pull out all the stops

Fiona Maddocks

21, Jul, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Home listening: behind the scenes at the Met
In a studio high up in New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, presenters Ira Siff and Mary Jo Heath take us through their meticulous pre-broadcast preparations

Stephen Pritchard

21, Apr, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Home listening: heavenly Haydn, and a good week for Farinelli
An exemplary recording of the Missa Cellensis; Ann Hallenberg channels the great castrato; and in praise of Opera on 3

Nicholas Kenyon

15, Dec, 2019 @5:30 AM

Article image
Home listening: Poulenc, Parry and a magnificent seven
Mark Bebbington excels in Poulenc’s Piano Concerto, Parry’s Judith springs to life. Plus, a new work for International Women’s Day

Stephen Pritchard

08, Mar, 2020 @5:29 AM