MOZART: Clarinet Quintets
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Quintet in A Major for clarinet and string quartet, K. 581
Quartet in E Flat Major for clarinet and string trio, K. 374f
Quintet in F Major for clarinet, basset horn and string trio,
KA. 90 (K. 580b) (completed by Franz Beyer)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the son of a courtmusician who, in the year of his youngest child's birth, published aninfluential book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the positionof Vice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed his owncreative career to that of his son, in whom he detected early signs ofprecocious genius. With the indulgence of his patron, he was able to undertakeextended concert tours of Europe in which his son and his eider daughter Nannerlwere able to astonish audiences. The boy played both the keyboard and the violin and could improvise and soon write down his own compositions.
Childhood that had brought Mozart signal success was followed by a lesssatisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg, under the patronage of anew and less sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozart found opportunitiesfar too limited at home, while chances of travel were now restricted. In 1777,when leave of absence was not granted, he gave up employment in Salzburg to seeka future elsewhere, but neither Mannheim nor Paris, both musical centres of someimportance, had anything for him. His Mannheim connections, however, brought acommission for an opera in Munich in 1781, and after its successful staging hewas summoned by his patron to Vienna. There Mozart's dissatisfaction with hisposition resulted in a quarrel with the Archbishop and dismissal from hisservice.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna in precarious independence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situationaggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and as aperformer was followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financialdifficulties. By the time of his death in December 1791, however, his fortunesseemed about to change for the better, with the success of the German opera TheMagic Flute, and the possibility of increased patronage.
The clarinet in its more primitive form, a simple single-reed instrument ofcylindrical bore, has an ancient history. The chalumeau, the form of theinstrument known in 17th century Europe, was developed at the beginning of thefollowing century to give a wider and higher range, with two contrastingregisters, the so called chalumeau or lower register and the upper flute-likenotes, now possible with an additional register key. The clarinet won onlygradual acceptance as an orchestral instrument, notably in Vienna with thebrothers Johann and Anton Stadler, engaged in the Imperial wind band from 1773and from 1787 in the court orchestra. Anton Stadler, specialising in the lowerregister, experimented with a form of the instrument with a still lower range,now generally known as the basset clarinet, for which Mozart wrote his ClarinetQuintet and Clarinet Concerto, both for Anton Stadler. The bassethorn, an instrument also used by Mozart, particularly in his masoniccompositions, and played by the Stadlers, is of the clarinet family, with astill lower range th an that of Anton Stadler's basset clarinet.
The A major Clarinet Quintet was completed in Vienna on 29th September1789, a time du ring which Mozart was busy with the composition of the opera Cosifan tutte. The autograph of the Quintet is lost and it was first publishedby Johann Andre in 1802 as Oeuvre 108 in the now familiar version for clarinet.
It was first performed by Stadler at a concert on 22nd December 1789. The windinstrument as always adds a particular poignancy, a touch of melancholy,particularly evident in the slow movement. The Minuet has a first A minor Triowithout the clarinet and a second in which it again has a more prominent part toplay. In the last movement the third variation is in the tonic minor key, withattention now given to the viola, its mood quickly dispelled by the clarinet inthe fourth variation, which is linked by an Adagio to the re-appearance of thetheme, in a now elaborated texture.
After Mozart's death in December 1791, his widow Constanze came to anagreement with the publisher the younger Johann Andre, who in 1799 bought theremaining Mozart manuscripts and set about the preparation of a catalogue of hiscompositions, a list that remained incomplete but was of material assistance toK??chel, when he came to make his catalogue. In 1799 Andre published TroisQuatuors pour Clarinette, Violon / Alto & Violoncelle composes par W. A.
Mozart Oeuvre 79me. Of these three quartets the first two are based on thesonatas for violin and piano K. 378 and K. 380 and the third is a version of thePiano Trio K. 496. It is improbable that these arrangements were by Mozart, butthey have been plausibly attributed to Andre, who, like his father, was a notinconsiderable composer. The transcriptions make good use of the medium, withadditional voices where these are called for and a convincing sharing ofthematic material between violin and clarinet.
The Quartet in E flat major for clarinet, violin, viola and cello, isa version of the sonata for violin and piano, K. 380, written in the summer of1781, Mozart's first period of independence from his anxious father and from apatron. It was published by Artaria as one of a set dedicated to his pupilJosepha Auernhammer, a girl whose charm lay in her piano-playing rather than inher appearance (ein Scheusal, according to Mozart in a letter to his father).
The transcription provides a further interesting addition to possible clarinetrepertoire in its dramatic first movement, followed by a melancholy G minor slowmovement and a varied final rondo.
The unfinished Quintet in F major for clarinet, basset horn, violin,viola and cello has been conjecturally dated to the year 1789, the period of thecompleted Clarinet Quintet. It was presumably intended for the two Stadlerbrothers. Mozart completed the first movement as far as bar 46, but sketched inthe principal thematic material up to the end of the exposition. The movementhas been completed with a development and recapitulation added by Franz Beyer.
Jozsef Balogh was born in Pecs in 1956, studying first in his native cityand then at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. In 1974 he was a prize-winner at thePrague Concertino Festival and joined the orchestra of the Hungarian State Operain 1976, also serving as principal clarinet in the Hungarian Radio Orchestra.
Since 1988 he has been on the teaching staff of the Budapest Academy. In 1989 hewas awarded a scholarship to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by Sir Georg Solti.
He has won various awards, including first prize at the Graz InternationalCompetition in 1988, when he performed with his frequent colleagues of theDanubius Quartet.
Born in Tatbanya in 1937. Bela Kov?ócs studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academyof Music in Budapest and from 1956 until1981 was principal clarinettist in theHungarian State Opera Orchestra. In 1969 he joined the teaching staff of theLiszt Academy. Bela Kov?ócs is well known as a member of the Hungarian WindQuintet and the Budapest Chamber Ensemble and as soloist in the firstperformances of a number of works by contemporary Hungarian composers. Awards inHungary include the title Artist of Merit and the Kossuth Prize.