Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Clarinet Concerto

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 1756 and died in 1791, in his lifetime he created a phenomenal amount of impressive works including operas, sonatas, symphonies, concertos and chamber works. Mozart’s father Johann, also a musician, realised his son was particularly gifted in music at the very early age of 3, when he started playing keyboard. At the age of 5 Mozart was composing and performing his works all over the Europe. At the age of six Mozart performed for the Bavarian elector and the Austrian empress. His father felt that it could be very profitable to expose his children’s musical genius (Mozart’s sister Maria Anna was a gifted keyboard player). In 1763 he took his children on a tour to Paris and London as well as several courts while on the journey. Mozart astounded audiences with his tremendous technical and musical ability. On this tour he played for the French and English royal families, had his first compositions published and also wrote his earliest symphonies. This tour ended in 1766, yet nine months later they left home again, this time to Vienna, where Leopold hoped to have Mozarts opera performed. In 1773, Mozart visited Vienna, it was here that he wrote a set of string quartets and when he returned home, he wrote a group of symphonies. From 1774 through to 1777, Mozart worked as Concert Master at the Prince Archbishop’s court, during these years he wrote masses, symphonies, all of his violin concertos, six piano sonatas several serenades and divertmentos and his first great piano concerto. From 1777 till 1780 he enjoyed little success, working in minor roles, however, still composing sacred works, symphonies, concertos, serenades and dramatic music. Opera remained his ultimate ambition and he finally was commissioned to write a serious opera for Munich. This first opera Idomeneo was a success. In Mozarts operas he portrayed serious, heroic emotion with a richness that had not been heard in his other works. While his operas were his passion, and piano concertos were an important part of his career as both a performer and a composer, his concertos for wind instruments were always written for, or inspired by a particular performer of that instrument. *Wikipedia

In the Autumn of 1791, Mozart was commissioned by his good friend Anton Stadler to write a concerto for him to play at an upcoming performance in Prague on October 16th 1791. Mozart had started writing a concerto for basset horn in 1989 this was reworked to become the Clarinet concerto. Stadler had recently invented an instrument that combined the agility of the early clarinet with the depth of the basset horn, and this ‘Basset Clarinet’ was the instrument for which Mozart wrote his concerto. It allowed him to write brilliant display passages and lyrical melodies in its clarion (upper) register and to explore the rich expressive sound of its chalumeau (lower) register with equal ease, and the music exploits the contrast between the two. Mozart had written several works for Stadler, including a clarinet quintet, a quintet for piano and winds (oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon) and a trio for clarinet, viola and piano. The Clarinet Concerto was premiered in Prague, on October 16th 1791. Stadlers performance left an extremely positive impression on the audience. The Berlin Musikalisches Womchenblatt wrote in January on 1792; “Herr Stadler, a clarinettist from Vienna. A man of great talent and recognised as such at court…His playing is brilliant and bears witness to his assurance” The only vaguely negative feedback was from critics who faulted Mozart for writing for this particular extended instrument. *wikipedia

Mozart’s clarinet concerto has been described by many over the years as being ‘autumnal’ mostly due to the lyrical Adagio movement, which is, out of the three movements, the most recognisable tune. Although the entire concerto is simple in form, the Adagio movement introduces a range of new textures, inspired by the solo instrument and its...
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