This recording is part of the Terra Nova aNTwerpeN project about a con- temporary of Mozart who lived in Antwerp, the composer and virtuoso clarinettist Henri Joseph Tobi (1741-1809). The wider project is aimed at recording his compositions, publishing his scores and the production of a book about his life, work and the musical climate in Antwerp in Mozart's times. Tobi was first placed on the musicological map by Godelieve Spiessens, writing in the arts yearbooks of the province of Antwerp. Indeed the lifetime of re- search Spiessens has devoted to this period has been invaluable to this project, particularly as information about other composers has come to light as well.
During a visit to the Austrian Netherlands the renowned musicologist Charles Burney wrote in his diary: Out-of-tune instruments, uncouth musicians and se- cond-rate performances.
Despite this resounding condemnation by Burney a growing number of studies have revealed that musical activity in Antwerp reached a high point at the end of the eighteenth century. The fact alone that round 1760 four of the six appointed and certified town musicians four were already playing clarinet is in itself remarkable. Indeed the instrument had made its European breakthrough around 1750, hardly ten years earlier.
During the Austrian period two important clarinet makers were active in the Southern Netherlands. These were the Tuerlinckx family of Mechelen and the De Rottenburgh family of Brussels and both enjoyed a reputation that extended far beyond the borders of the Empire.
In this recording I play a clarinet built according to a design by Tuerlinckx, a wind instrument such as would have been played by Henri Joseph Tobi in the eighteenth century.
The music on this disc consists of a set of six trios for clarinet, violin and bass. The combination of clarinet and violin is quite unusual. This is charming music that was probably intended for playing in the gilded salons of Antwerp's grand houses. The sole surviving copy of the score was published in Paris and is currently on display in the Butchers' Hall Museum in Antwerp. The work is dedicated to Baron Charles de Proli, the musical patron and sponsor of the Antwerp, Brussels and Paris opera.
Tobi, Henri Joseph: Premiere Oeuvre: