MOZART: Clarinet Trio, 'Kegelstatt' / Clarinet Quartets (Bela Kovacs/ Danubius Quartet/ Gyorgy Konrad/ Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando/ Jozsef Balogh) (Naxos: 8.550439)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Trio in E Flat Major, K. 498 (Kegelstatt Trio)
Quartet in B Flat Major, K. 378 (K. 317d) (rev. Bela Kovacs)
Quartet in F Major, K. 496
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was barn in Salzburg in 1756, the sanof a court musician who, in the year of his youngest child's birth, published aninfluential book on violin-playing. Leopold Mozart rose to occupy the position ofVice-Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Salzburg, but sacrificed his own creative careerto that of his son, in whom he detected early signs of precocious genius. With theindulgence of his patron, he was able to undertake extended concert tours of Europe inwhich his son and his eider daughter Nannerl were able to astonish audiences. The bayplayed bath the keyboard and the violin and could improvise and soon write dawn his owncompositions.
Childhood that had brought Mozart signal success was followedby a less satisfactory period of adolescence largely in Salzburg, under the patronage of anew and less sympathetic Archbishop. Like his father, Mozart found opportunities far toolimited at home, while chances of travel were now restricted. In 1777, when leave ofabsence was not granted, he gave up employment in Salzburg to seek a future elsewhere, butneither Mannheim nor Paris, both musical centres of some importance, had anything for him.
His Mannheim connections, however, brought a commission for an opera in Munich in 1781,and after its successful staging he was summoned by his patron to Vienna. There Mozart'sdissatisfaction with his position resulted in a quarrel with the Archbishop and dismissalfrom his service.
The last ten years of Mozart's life were spent in Vienna inprecarious independence of both patron and immediate paternal advice, a situationaggravated by an imprudent marriage. Initial success in the opera-house and as a performerwas followed, as the decade went on, by increasing financial difficulties. By the time ofhis death in December 1791, however, his fortunes seemed about to change for the better,with the success of the German opera The Magic Flute, and the possibility of increasedpatronage.
The clarinet in its more primitive form, a simple single-reedinstrument of cylindrical bore, has an ancient history. The chalumeau, the form of theinstrument known in 17th century Europe, was developed at the beginning of the followingcentury to give a wider and higher range, with two contrasting registers, the so calledchalumeau or lower register and the upper flute-like notes, now possible with anadditional register key. The clarinet won only gradual acceptance as an orchestralinstrument, notably in Vienna with the brothers Johann and Anton Stadler, engaged in theImperial wind band from 1773 and from 1787 in the court orchestra. Anton Stadler,specialising in the lower register, experimented with a form of the instrument with astill lower range, now generally known as the basset clarinet, for which Mozart wrote his Clarinet Quintet and Clarinet Concerto, both designed for Anton Stadler.
Mozart's Kegelstatt Trio,for clarinet, viola and piano, was completed on 5th August 1786, its nick-name derivedfrom the suggestion that the work was composed during the course of a game of skittles.
The Trio was written for the Jacquin family and in particular for Mozart's pupil FranziskaJacquin, who presumably played it with Anton Stadler, with the composer himself playingthe viola. When the work was published by Artaria in 1788, it was prudently advertised asfor violin, viola and keyboard, a necessary commercial adjustment, with an added note thatthe violin part could be played instead on the clarinet.
The Trio opens with an Andante in which the piano, initiallytogether with the viola, announces the theme, then capped by the clarinet, which is laterentrusted with the second subject, given to the viola in its re-appearance in therecapitulation. The second movement is a Minuet, in the key of B flat, with a contrastingG minor Trio section that puts the viola through its paces. The final Rondeaux opens withthe principal theme played by the clarinet. The movement includes a dramatic excursioninto C minor for the viola and further brief opportunities for virtuosity in music of subtlerefinement and moments of poignant beauty in music written at the height of Mozart'scareer.
After Mozart's death in December 1791, his widow Constanze cameto an agreement 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 to Kochel,when he came to make his catalogue. In 1799 Andre published Trois Quatuors pour Clarinette, Violon / Alto & Violoncellecomposes par W. A. Mozart Oeuvre 79me. Of these three quartets the first twoare based on the sonatas for violin and piano K. 378 and K. 380 and the third is aversionof the Piano Trio K. 496. It is improbablethat these arrangements were by Mozart, but they have been plausibly attributed to Andre,who, like his father, was a not inconsiderable composer. The transcriptions make good useof the medium, with additional voices where these are called for and a convincing sharingof thematic material between violin and clarinet.
The B flat major Sonata forviolin and piano, K. 378, was written in Salzburg early in 1779, after Mozart'sreluctant return home after his unfortunate visit to Paris in the preceding year. There issome subtlety in the arrangement, particularly in the allocation of parts in the centraldevelopment of the first movement of the transcription, in which the violin still retainsa leading part. The clarinet announces the principal theme of the E flat slow movement,and this is later entrusted to the violin, with an arpeggio accompaniment from theclarinet. The clarinet is the first to state the cheerful principal theme of the lastmovement, closely followed by the violin, an equal partner in what follows.
The F major Quartet,transposed from the original Piano Trio key of G major, is from a work originally writtenin Vienna in July 1786. The clarinet plays the first theme, originally given to the piano,followed by the violin, the arpeggios of the theme and of the accompaniment then offeredby the clarinet, suit the instrument particularly well. A slow movement of more elaboratefiguration is followed by a final theme and six variations.
Born in Tatbanya in 1937, Bela Kovacs studied at the FerencLiszt Academy of Music in Budapest and from 1956 until 1981 was principal clarinettist inthe Hungarian State Opera Orchestra. In 1969 he joined the teaching staff of the LisztAcademy. Bela Kovacs is well known as a member of the Hungarian Wind Quintet and theBudapest Chamber Ensemble and as soloist in the first performances of a number of works bycontemporary Hungarian composers. Awards in Hungary include the title Artist of Merit andthe Kossuth Prize.
Jozsef Balogh was born in Pecs in 1956, studying first in hisnative city and then at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. In 1974 he was a prize-winner atthe Prague Concertino Festival and joined the orchestra of the Hungarian State Opera in1976, also serving as principal clarinet in the Hungarian Radio Orchestra. Since 1988 hehas been on the teaching staff of the Budapest Academy. In 1989 he was awarded ascholarship to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by Sir Georg Solti. He has won variousawards, including first prize at the Graz International Competi