Around the turn of the 18th century, German instrument-maker Johann Denner added a register key to the simple tube-like Chalumeau – the instrument that later became known as the clarinet. Appreciating its extended range and improved tone, composers began including the instrument in orchestral scores towards the middle of the century and in the late 1750s, the Mannheim Orchestra became the rst to employ clarinet players. On hearing this orchestra perform, Mozart was captivated, exclaiming to his father: “Oh, if only we had clarinets too! You can’t imagine the glorious e ect of a symphony with utes, oboes and clarinets!”
Whenever possible, the composer thereafter included the clarinet in his orchestrations. But it was only when he heard the virtuoso Anton Stadler perform that Mozart began to more prominently feature the instrument in his music, pushing the clarinet’s limits and creating works that would forever mark its place in the classical music establishment.
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622 is one such work:
the first major concerto for the instrument, it is also the last work Mozart completed before dying at the age of just 35. The opening movement’s evolving melody reveals the clarinet’s vast colour range, while the second is breath-taking in its beautiful simplicity. The nal movement is in rondo form with each of the contrasting episodes a new opportunity for the display of dramatic virtuosity.
The Clarinet Concerto was premiered in Prague by Stadler himself, and while it did not meet with universal enthusiasm, it did win the composer a number of fans, with critic Bernhard Weber writing: “Such an abundance of beauty almost tires the soul, and the e ect of the whole is sometimes obscured thereby. But happy the artist whose only fault lies in an all too great perfection.” Notes: Rhiannon Cook