9 Apr 2014

Curtain Raiser: Mozart - Clarinet Concerto

From the collecton Curtain Raiser

Mozart's Clarinet Concerto is considered the greatest wind concerto and one of the most profound and affecting of all concertos. It’s among Mozart's very last works, completed in 1791 only a few months before his death.


Mozart Photo: Public Domain

Mozart had befriended Anton Stadler a prominent Viennese virtuoso who happened to be a member of his Masonic lodge. Mozart had already written for Stadler a Quintet for clarinet and strings K581.

In earlier times he’d visited Mannheim and heard its famous orchestra and been excited to see a pair of clarinets in its wind section. His excitement was well justified. Here was an instrument with a span of almost 4 octaves, a wide dynamic range and a sound quality matching that of the human voice.

Mozart’s rapid grasp of the clarinet’s possibilities was astonishing. He quickly appreciated its three very different registers. The rich, warm, oily low register called the “chalumeau”; the clear, telling clarion register in the middle and its trumpet-like top notes.


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