Ensemble 360

Cast, Doncaster
Saturday 22 April 2023, 7.00pm


£10 Under 26s

Past Event

BERWALD Grand Septet in B-flat (25′)
MOZART Clarinet Quintet in A K581 (35′)
BEETHOVEN Septet in E-flat, Op.20 (40′)

An evening featuring three celebrated works of chamber music, all on a larger scale.

Beethoven’s Septet was his most popular work; an inventive, celebratory piece, full of youthful energy and generosity of spirit, punctuated by fanfares, solos, cadenzas and exuberant fireworks! The evening begins with a Romantic septet, inspired by Beethoven, and written by his Swedish younger contemporary, Berwald; Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Quintet follows.

BERWALD Franz, Grand Septet in B flat

Allegro molto
Poco adagio
Poco adagio
Finale: Allegro con spirito


The influence and popularity of Beethoven’s Septet spread across Europe and the work was regularly performed in Berwald’s native city of Stockholm. Now widely regarded as the most important Swedish composer of the nineteenth century, during his lifetime Berwald was seldom able to earn a living from his music, working instead as a successful physiotherapist and, later, manager of a glass works. None of this should lead us to underestimate either Berwald’s creative talent or his imaginative handling of musical form. Both are apparent in this Septet. Completed in 1828, it may have been a reworking of an earlier piece for the same forces. Even so, it is a relatively early work, composed two decades before his best-known pieces such as the Symphonie sérieuse and Symphonie singulière. The musical language is consistently appealing, owing something to contemporary opera and to composers such as Spohr, but the melodies and harmonies have an idiosyncratic character that is entirely Berwald’s own (as at the start of the Allegro molto in the first movement, or the opening of the finale). In terms of the Septet’s design, the most striking innovation comes in the second movement which has a very quick Scherzo embedded within a seemingly conventional slow movement.

MOZART Wolfgang Amadeus, Clarinet Quintet in A K581

Allegretto con variazioni  

The Clarinet Quintet was completed on 29 September 1789 and written for Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler (1753–1812). The first performance took place a few months later at a concert in Vienna’s Burgtheater on 22 December 1789, with Stadler as the soloist in a programme where the premiere of the Clarinet Quintet was a musical interlude, sandwiched between the two parts of Vincenzo Righini’s cantata The Birth of Apollo, performed by “more than 180 persons.” 

From the start, Mozart is at his most daringly beautiful: the luxuriant voicing of the opening string chords provides a sensuously atmospheric musical springboard for the clarinet’s opening flourish. The rich sonority of the Clarinet Quintet is quite unlike that of any other chamber music by Mozart, but it does have something in common with his opera Così fan tutte (premièred in January 1790), on which he was working at the same time. In particular, the slow movement of the quintet, with muted strings supporting the clarinet, has a quiet rapture that recalls the trio ‘Soave sia il vento’ (with muted strings, and prominent clarinet parts as well as voices) in Così. The finale of the Quintet is a Theme and Variations which begins with folk-like charm, then turns to more melancholy reflection before ending in a spirit of bucolic delight. 

Nigel Simeone © 2012 

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