From the recording DOUBLE CONCERTO FOR CLARINETTI D'AMORE
THE RETURN OF THE CLARINETTO D’AMORE
The clarinetto d’amore has today completely disappeared from the concert stage; two replicas of this unusual instrument were therefore made especially for this recording. All of the works by De Croes that are presented on this CD are world première recordings. De Croes, however, was no obscure composer who wrote only for this curious instrument; he was a respected musician with an intriguing body of work. In order to provide a balanced overview of his output, we are also presenting examples of his symphonies and concertos here alongside his chamber works.
Henri Joseph de Croes was born in Brussels in 1758 and died in Regensburg in 1842. He was born two years after his illustrious contemporary and colleague Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Like Mozart, De Croes had a talented musician for a father who had won his spurs as leader of a typical central European court orchestra during the middle years of the 18th century.
Clarinetto d’amore: a revival and world première
We should also give some attention to the remarkable instrument known as the clarinetto d’amore. The instrument has a clear link with the region of De Croes’ birth, given that such instruments were made by Francis Rottenburgh from Brussels and Jan and Cornelis Tuerlinckx from Mechelen, the leading European makers of wind instruments at that time amongst others. The pear-shaped cup at the base of the instrument is a unique characteristic of the instrument and creates a tender, entreating timbre that is almost as sweet as honey; this felt as being particularly melodious in the time of the German Sturm und Drang. The clarinetto d’amore nonetheless went out of fashion and was forgotten. There are only sixty-nine examples of the instrument to be found in museums and private collections worldwide: works composed specifically for the clarinetto d’amore are as rare as the instrument itself.
The anonymous concerto for two clarinetti d’amore that has survived in Regensburg is most probably not by De Croes, but it nonetheless demonstrates that the instrument was known and valued in Regensburg.
The Partias by De Croes form the heart of the second CD. A partia is a short movement that is generally a section of a larger suite. De Croes composed six sets of twelve partias between 1780 and 1794, these being made up of a series of highly amusing short movements. The selection of the partias that we present here has no connection with the order of the original sets. Our choice for two clarinetti d’amore gives the music a unique timbre, whilst the ensemble formed by two violas and double bass makes the sound as at once both nostalgic and also entertaining. The pieces were most likely intended for incidental music at banquets and, in contrast to the above concerto, were not required to display either brilliance or high virtuosity. The music is extremely refined and indeed recalls the grandeur of an 18th century court orchestra.
The clarinette d’amour: a brief history
The clarinette d’amour is a member of the clarinet family constructed during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century. It was usually made in A♭, G, or F, in a straight form with a curved brass crook or curved wooden barrel at the top, and a globular or bear-shaped bell at the bottom. The bell shape imitates that of the earlier oboe d’amore, mainly for appearance as the shape darkens the tone of only the lowest two or three notes. After about 1800, a few soprano clarinets were made in C, B, or A with globular bells, but these instruments lack the distinctive tone colour of the lower-pitched clarinets.
More than 70 antique clarinettes d’amour survived, the earliest, with three keys, made in southern Germany and Vienna. Instrument works scored with G clarinets include two double concertos by J. V. Knĕžek (1780s) and chamber music by Johann Stamitz, Michael Haydn, H. J. de Croes, T. von Schacht, and others. Wind band music includes J. J. Rousseau’s March (1770s) for two G clarinets, and J. C. Bach’s two Marches for the Queen’s Dragoons (ca. 1780), including two B “clarinetto d’amor”.
Albert R. Rice©
Jean Arnold Antoine Tuerlinckx (1753-1827), Mechelen’s master luthier
The Tuerlinckx workshops were active in Mechelen successively under the Austrian, French and Dutch regimes but ceased trading in about 1840.
Jean Arnold Antoine Tuerlinckx (1753-1827) started the business in 1782 and died in 1827. His son Corneille Jean Joseph Tuerlinckx (1783-1855) then took over and continued the firm started by his father. By then however the best years for high quality instruments were already in the past. In about 1840 the once so-flourishing business ceased trading. Corneille Jean Joseph Tuerlinckx had also become an admired composer and a collector of coins and fossils. Furthermore, he was less obsessed with instrument building than his father. He died in 1855. The year after his death, the workshop and the remaining instruments were sold.