Archduke Rudolph – Clarinet and Piano Music

If you want to get deep into the minutia of the classical repertoire, this is the disc for you. It’s a collection of mostly unfinished music by a student of Beethoven. But neither the music nor the composer is commonplace.

Archduke Rudolph is best remembered as one of Beethoven’s patrons and students. He was quite an accomplished pianist — Beethoven dedicated his knuckle-busting Hammerklavier Sonata to Rudolph (in fact, Beethoven dedicated a total of fourteen works to him, including the “Archduke” Trio). And as this release shows, not a bad composer either — although not one with a lot of free time, as most of the works are incomplete.

Luigi Maistrelli (clarinet) and Claudia Bracco (piano) deliver sympathetic performances that really show Rudolph’s music in the best possible light. Rudolph wrote with a lighter touch than his teacher, and Maistrelli and Bracco breeze through the material deftly.

Rudolph may not possess Beethoven’s stormy nature, but his sets of variations (there are four on this album) show plenty of creativity and imagination. Most interesting to me was the Variations on a Theme by J. Weigl for clarinet and two pianos. Rather than overpowering the solo instrument, the two pianos provide a richer, fuller accompaniment. Skillfully written! The Six Dances for Solo Clarinet (all around 45 seconds) are quite charming and lay well on the instrument.

Rudolph is no Beethoven, but his music is well-constructed and quite appealing in its own right. I enjoyed what I heard. I just wish he’d gotten around to finishing those two clarinet sonatas.

Archduke Rudolph: Music for clarinet and piano
Luigi Magistrelli, clarinet; Claudia Bracco, piano
Brilliant Classics

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