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