August 12, 2019. Summer nights feel especially precious now that we’re well into August, and summer twilights seem magical. The "blue hour"—that last period of day when the sun has set, but residual light gives the sky a soft, bluish shade—this time and mood is captured in a recent album of the same name by clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer and pianist Yuja Wang.
The repertoire that threads throughout Blue Hour, recently released by Deutsche Grammophon, consists of intimate Romantic solo piano masterpieces, arranged for clarinet and piano. Brahms leads off the album, with one of his late miniature gems, the Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2, beautifully arranged by Nicolai Popov.
Andreas Ottensamer himself arranges a Brahms art song, “Wie Melodien zieht es mir,” as well as seven Songs Without Words by Felix Mendelssohn. In this sensitive collaboration by Ottensamer and Wang, these arrangements sound as natural as if Mendelssohn and Brahms had written their pieces for this particular duo of instruments.
Watch Ottensamer and Wang perform Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's “Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 30, No. 6 Allegretto tranquillo.”
But the mood of the album is not completely mellow. Carl Maria von Weber, who wrote brilliant showpieces for clarinet, is represented in two substantial works—the Grand Duo Concertant for Clarinet and Piano, as well as the Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor.
Ottensamer has a chance to show off plenty of pyrotechnics, partnering with an equally virtuosic Yuja Wang, and also with the ensemble for which he plays principal clarinet, the Berlin Philharmonic.
From showy to poetic, Blue Hour will please fans of Yuja Wang, of Andreas Ottensamer, and of summer twilights.