Franz Anton Dimler: Three Clarinet Concertos. © 2021 cpo

CD Spotlight

An Exciting Discovery

GERALD FENECH listens to clarinet concertos by German composer Franz Anton Dimler

'Performances are fresh and bouncy, while never sacrificing the poetic and lyrical aspect of these emotional yet demanding scores.'


I think that just to have an inkling who Franz Anton Dimler was, we have to start from the Mannheim School. Contrary to what one might think, this was not an establishment or some kind of Academy. It was a movement of thought that led to a new style of composition. This School refers to both orchestral techniques pioneered by the Court Orchestra of Mannheim in the latter half of the eighteenth century, and the group of composers of the early classical period who composed for that particular orchestra. The father of this school is considered to be the Bohemian Johann Stamitz. Besides him, two generations of composers wrote music for the orchestra whose reputation was due to its excellent discipline and the individual skill of its players. Their performance style included new dynamic elements, crescendos and diminuendos. Composers of the Mannheim School played an important role in the development of the classical period's genres and of the classical symphonic form.

So where does Franz Anton Dimler fit in? Indeed, he was a violinist in the orchestra and even composed for it. But this was up to 1778, because during that year Dimler was engaged by Prince Elector Carl Theodor of the Palatinate to form part of his own court orchestra. This ensemble was no mean group; on the contrary, it was a very distinguished outfit which embraced musicians who were not only certified virtuosos on their instruments, but also efficient composers. It was an orchestra of virtuoso composers. Some of these most highly capable musicians received the adulation and fame of the international music world, while others were left to grind a living in obscurity. Without being given the importance they so richly deserved, the latter group were denied the acknowledgement given to their more luckier colleagues, and today their names hardly cause a whimper. One that fell in the latter category was Franz Anton Dimler (1753-1827). A horn player and later double bassist, he made a name for himself with his dedicated musicianship, but today he is known as a composer only to a few specialists, even though his works are of the highest quality.

Listen — Dimler: Allegro (Clarinet Concerto in E flat, 1795)
(track 1, 0:01-0:55) ℗ 2021 cpo :

This is also true of his clarinet concertos, three of which are premieres on this wonderful release. The focus in them is always on the highly virtuosic solo parts, while the orchestral accompaniment exercises a subordinate function.

Listen — Dimler: Adagio espressivo (Clarinet Concerto in B, 1796)
(track 5, 0:01-1:01) ℗ 2021 cpo :

Soloist Nikolaus Friedrich has the opportunity to display his brilliance with passagework, arpeggios and shifts of register, and makes all the colours of the clarinet shine over its whole tonal gamut.

Listen — Dimler: Rondeau (Clarinet Concerto in B)
(track 9, 4:51-5:50) ℗ 2021 cpo :

Performances are fresh and bouncy, while never sacrificing the poetic and lyrical aspect of these emotional yet demanding scores. Johannes Willig and his Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester Mannheim players give sympathetic support. An exciting discovery, worthy of serious investigation.

Copyright © 5 December 2021 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta








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