Composers of note

People interested in classical music are well aware of household names such as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. There is a good reason for that since they are both notable composers. If we were in any doubt of this, concert programmes would confirm it. Beethoven symphonies and concertos are a staple of concert programmes, and Tchaikovsky is always well represented. A glance at the recording catalogue would reinforce this view. Conductors are given to recording ‘Beethoven cycles’ in much the same way as pianists like to record complete sets of Beethoven sonatas. A search of the Fifth Symphony on Presto, a well-known classical music website, brings up 39 pages listing recordings of this work, and each of these pages lists several recordings. We could reasonably ask how many recordings of this work we really need.  Conductors also like to record ‘Mahler Cycles’ primarily, it seems, for the Japanese market.

Some other composers are reasonably well represented in concert programmes too, such as Haydn, Mozart and Rachmaninov, but what has always amazed me is the composers who are seldom or never to be found in live concerts but whose music is well crafted and enjoyable. You would think that if music is well written and a pleasure to hear, concert programmers would let us hear it. But in the main they don’t. Here are just two examples.

Franz Krommer (1759–1831)


Krommer is listed in Wikipedia under a Germanic form of his name. In fact he was born in what is now the Czech Republic and might better be known as František Kramář. For many years there was a great deal of confusion over this composer’s name, to the extent that when I was at school (many years ago) we believed there was a composer called Frantisek Krommer Krammer, a name we liked a lot.

Kramář’s output was considerable, including symphonies, concertos and seventy string quartets, though nowadays he is best known for his many works involving wind instruments. I know only a small percentage of his output, but greatly enjoy both of his concertos for two clarinets. Why do we never hear them in the concert hall? They are well written and inventive. Because two clarinet soloists would have to be paid? That can’t be the explanation, since the powers that be never schedule any of his solo concertos for clarinet either.

Bernhard Molique (1802-1869)


Molique wrote a flute concerto, a cello concerto and six concertos for violin that I know of. But he also wrote two concertos for Signor Regondi, an Italian gentleman who was a virtuoso player both of the guitar and the concertina. And of these two instruments it was not, as you might expect, the guitar that he wrote them for but the concertina.

This might seem an odd instrument to write a concerto for since the concertina is small and not well capable of standing out against an orchestra. But if you have heard a virtuouso concertina player in action, Simon Thoumire, for example, you would not be so surprised. The scores of both concertos exist but one remains unpublished.

If I win the lottery I will happily pay to have it published and for these concertos to be performed and recorded. But this is unlikely to happen. I don’t buy lottery tickets – so I am marginally less likely to win it than those who do.

Molique also wrote a sonata for concertina and piano. This has been recorded (alas, though sensitively, on the accordion). It is a delightful work with a sonata form first movement very fully worked out.

To illustrate the man at work, here is a movement from one of his concertos for concertina and orchestra (played on the accordion).

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