Orfeo first released these recordings of Louis Spohr clarinet concertos in 1984. And they sound like it. The overall sound is somewhat dulled in the extreme registers (compared to contemporary recordings). It casts the orchestra and soloist in soft focus.

Despite this, I would still recommend this reissue. Karl Leister is an exceptional clarinetist, and his performances here are quite appealing. He plays the intricate passages and extended runs with fluid gracefulness.

Notes seem to blend together and yet are fully articulated even in rapid passages. Sphr wrote all four concertos for Johann Simon Hermstedt, the foremost clarinetist of the early 19th Century.

Leister matches him, I think, in virtuosity. Leister not only masters the technical challenges but also brings out the musicality buried in them.

Spohr was a younger contemporary of Mozart, and these works have a trace of Mozartian sensibilities. And that trace gives these works a certain good-natured tunefulness.

The minus: old-fashioned sound. The plus: top-notch playing.

Louis Spohr: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1-4
Karl Leister, clarinet
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart; Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor
Orfeo MP1091
2 CD Set