Tuesday 27 September 2022

Celebrating the bicentenary of Weber's Bassoon Concerto with Laurence Perkins and Greenwich Chamber Orchestra

Carl Maria von Weber (1821), by Caroline Bardua
 Carl Maria von Weber (1821), by Caroline Bardua
After a stressful four years, from 1807 to 1810, when Carl Maria von Weber worked as secretary to the King of Württemberg's brother and got entangled in his employer's financial machinations, Weber embarked on an international concert tour visiting   Munich, Prague, Dresden, Berlin, Copenhagen, and St. Petersburg. In March 1811, he arrived in Munich where he worked with the court orchestra (descendant of the Mannheim orchestra that had so impressed Mozart). Weber wrote the clarinet Concertino for Heinrich Bärmann, a clarinettist in the court orchestra who would become a lifelong friend. It was such a success that the King of Bavaria commissioned Weber for two clarinet concertos. 

Other court musicians wanted concertante works from Weber, but the only one who convinced him was bassoonist Georg Friedrich Brandt, a student of Mozart's favourite bassoonist. Brandt premiered the work in Munich in December 1811, but by then Weber had left for Switzerland. Brandt subsequently performed the concerto in Vienna (1812), Prague (1813) and Ludwigslust (1817). Weber attended this last concert and as a result revised the work, publishing it in 1822

The work's textual history is complex as later 19th century editions of the work obscured Weber's original intentions regarding articulations, notes and dynamics, not to mention misprints and it is only in the 20th century that Weber's original intentions have been rediscovered.

Bassoonist Laurence Perkins (whom I first heard in recital at the Royal Northern College of Music when we were both studying in Manchester) has just done a new edition of Weber's Bassoon Concerto and has been playing it around the country, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the work's final completion.

On Saturday 22 October 2022, Laurence Perkins joins the Greenwich Chamber Orchestra, conductor David Cutts, to perform Weber's Bassoon Concerto at St Alfege's Church, Greenwich. Also in the programme is Paul Reade's Catalonia which Reade (who died 25 years ago) wrote for Perkins, plus symphonies by Mozart and Schubert.

The Greenwich Chamber Orchestra was formed in 2019 by David Cutts and is now settling in to giving an autumn and a winter concert in St Alfege Church each year. The orchestra is made up of fine amateur players from London and elsewhere who meet for a few rehearsals for each occasion.  The professional leader is the exceptional Gonzalo Acosta. Each concert of includes a concerto by internationally renowned soloists.

Full details of the concert from EventBrite

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