Karl Leister was the principal clarinetist in the Berlin Philharmonic from 1959 to 1993. Regarded by many as one of the greatest clarinet players in the world, Leister has also been a prolific soloist and chamber musician and has recorded many of the works in the clarinet repertoire. I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Leister perform the Brahms Quintet live at the University of Florida several years ago, and it was one of the greatest concerts I have ever heard. The following list includes some of my favorite recordings of his, but is just a sample of his great accomplishments.
Mozart: Clarinet & Bassoon Concertos
Karl Leister’s performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with Sir Neville Marriner is probably my favorite recording of the piece. His smooth, dark tone and clear articulation are as beautiful in this recording as any that I have heard by him.
Spohr: Die Klarinettenkonzerte 2 & 3 (The Clarinet Concertos 2 & 3)
Ludwig Spohr composed four clarinet concertos, all of which are very technically demanding. As usual, Leister’s command of the instrument is brilliant, and his musicality reveals a deep understanding of Spohr’s music. These recordings are sometimes hard to find, especially the CD of concertos No. 1 and No. 4.
Crusell: The Three Clarinet Concertos
Bernhard Henrik Crusell is not a household name in the world of classical music, but he is well known in the clarinet world. The Swedish composer was born in 1775 and died in 1838, and he was an excellent clarinetist, too. He understood the instrument well and wrote some great works for the clarinet. Leister’s performances of the concertos are outstanding, as usual.
Karl Leister: 20th Century Clarinet Music
This CD features Leister’s great performances of more contemporary works, along with pianist Ferenc Bognár. It includes music for clarinet and piano by Bernstein, Horovitz, Honegger, Hindemith, and Lutoslawski.