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Mozart: Clarinet Concerto, K. 622

Mozart: Clarinet Concerto, K. 622


420 words
program notes by Chris Myers

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Copyright © 2017 Chris Myers. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution or reproduction prohibited.

Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
solo clarinet, 2 flutes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, strings

Composed 1791. First performance: 16 October 1791, Prague. Anton Stadler, clarinet.

I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Rondo: Allegro

Mozart may not have been the first to write for clarinet, but no composer did more to establish the instrument. The clarinet was far from standard in orchestras of his day, but Mozart included them in many of his symphonies and operas, helping persuade orchestras to add the instrument to their rosters.

After moving to Vienna, Mozart met the virtuoso clarinetist Anton Stadler. Stadler’s skill and musicianship further inspired the composer, resulting in several significant chamber works, including the K. 452 Quintet for Piano and Winds and the K. 581 Quintet for Clarinet and Strings. Mozart’s admiration even led him to insist that his opera producers bring Stadler to Prague to play in the pit orchestra for the 1791 premiere of La Clemenza di Tito.

Mozart was busy that autumn. In addition to Clemenza, he completed Die Zauberflöte, the Masonic Cantata, and the Requiem. In the midst of all this activity, Mozart’s concerto for Stadler was born. He began to compose the work for basset horn, an instrument similar to the alto clarinet. After completing the first movement, though, Mozart changed the solo instrument to a basset clarinet. Stadler had received critical acclaim for his skill on this rare instrument, which was related to the clarinet but had additional notes at the low end of its range. In October, Stadler premiered Mozart’s new concerto in Prague to an enthusiastic reception and positive reviews.

Six weeks later, Mozart was dead. The Clarinet Concerto would be his final instrumental work.

Because of the rarity of the basset clarinet, the first published edition of the concerto was rearranged to accommodate the range of its more common cousin. Stadler sold his copy of the original solo part— the only one in existence— and it was lost to history. There have been attempts to reconstruct the original, but most contemporary performances continue to use the revised version.

Even when compared to Mozart’s other work, the Clarinet Concerto stands out for its exquisite elegance and lyrical beauty. The work eschews technical displays of virtuosity, relying instead on the soloist’s musicality and beauty of tone. This intimate dialogue between orchestra and soloist is composed in traditional concerto structure: a first movement in sonata form, a slow movement, and a rondo (recurring theme with interspersed episodes) finale.

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