Michel Yost Clarinet Concertos approach Mozart

Michèl Yost was not only one of the greatest clarinetists of the late 1700s. He was also one of the cofounders of the French school of clarinet playing. Like other virtuosos of his age, Yost wrote concertos to perform in concert. This release presents three of his fourteen concertos.

Stylistically, the concertos resemble Mozart’s. They follow the three-movement form of the day; sonata-allegro first movement with cadenza; slow, lyrical middle movement; light, and breezy finale. The cadenzas are particularly interesting, as they provide insight into Yost’s considerable ability.

Clarinetist Susanne Heilig plays with a full, clear tone. She navigates difficult passages with deft agility, lightly zipping up and down the scales. Her phrasing adds to the beauty of Yost’s melodies. His music may be primarily written for show, but the fireworks are framed by some pleasantly tuneful passages.

I also enjoyed the sound of the Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester. This 14-member ensemble specializes in the music of the Mannheim School and its offshoots (like Yost’s compositions). The sound of this compact ensemble is buoyant and clear. Yost wrote music to entertain and/or impress audiences, and the lightness of the sound perfectly conveys that intent.

The chamber orchestra also performs a symphony by Johann Christoph Vogel. Vogel, though German, spent most of his career in Paris. He was a close friend of Yost, and the two sometimes collaborated on compositions. His Symphony in D major, written around the same time as Yost’s concertos, is very similar in style.

What makes this release appealing are the performances. Neither Yost nor Vogel is Mozart (or Haydn, for that matter). But the sympathetic and energetic readings their music receives elevates their music just a little closer to Mozart’s level.

Michel Yost: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 6, 12, & 14
Johann Vogel: Symphony in D major
Susanne Heilig, clarinet
Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester; Marek Stilec, conductor
CPO 555 191-2


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