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Charles Oberthür (1819-1895)
Le Désir  Op. 65

Charles (Carl) Oberthür (1819-1895) was one of the best-known of nineteenth-century harpists and a prolific composer for his instrument. Born in Munich, he held appointments at Zurich and Wiesbaden before settling in London in 1844. At the forefront of English harp playing and teaching for the next fifty years he also maintained strong European connections, teaching at the Paris and Brussels conservatoires, touring extensively and visiting numerous courts and festivals. His private pupils included Princess Stephanie (wife of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria) and the Duchess of Wellington. In 1884 he toured the USA.

Oberthür’s works include operas, orchestral and choral works and more that three hundred opus numbers for harp, occasionally with other instruments. Le Désir is one of a set of six nocturnes written to celebrate the second marriage of Adolf, Duke of Nassau - still apparently Oberthür’s employer in Wiesbaden - in April 1851. They were published under the collective title Cadeaux de noces by Wessel and Co. in London the following year, appearing simultaneously as harp and piano duets and in versions for violin, cello, flute, clarinet and concertina with harp or piano accompaniment. The clarinet version is dedicated to the great English clarinettist Henry Lazarus (1815-1895), with whom Oberthür appeared in public on a number of occasions, and may well be the original form of the work.

In the present edition of the fourth nocturne the piano/harp part is a precise reproduction of the text given in the Wessel score (common to all the versions mentioned above), while the solo line has been made consistent with the clarinet part - itself here printed in urtext.

Oliver Davies

Le Désir  has been recorded by Colin Bradbury and Oliver Davies on the CD The Art of the Clarinettist (CC0008).

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