Concerto for Clarinet in A, K622 (1791)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
One of the last works Mozart wrote, the clarinet concerto was written for his friend and fellow freemason Anton Stadler. This most popular of all clarinet concertos was actually written for the basset clarinet. Stadler, who was a fine virtuoso, was also a great innovator, and extended the range of the standard A clarinet down by four notes. This so-called basset clarinet (not to be confused with the deeper basset horn used in a number of Mozart’s other works including his Requiem) was also the basis for Mozart’s clarinet quintet, also written for Stadler. Although Stadler sponged off the good-natured Mozart, they remained friends from when they first met in 1783 until Mozart’s death.
Mozart’s love of the clarinet is evident in every phrase. The first movement is in conventional sonata form, starting with an extended orchestral introduction. The meltingly beautiful second movement exploits the lyrical characteristics of the clarinet to the full. The simple opening theme is followed by a central section whose operatic style is reminiscent of The Magic Flute, completed a few months earlier. The energetic and sparkling final movement is a breezy and virtuosic 6/8 Rondo, in which the soloist features throughout. A reflective interlude doesn’t interrupt its lively progress for long, before the soloist again propels the music towards its exuberant conclusion.
Stadler premiered the concerto in Prague in October 1791. He then returned to Vienna to play the concerto on November 18th, with Mozart conducting what turned out to be his last public performance. He fell ill and took to his bed, dying a few weeks later.
Performed: 2005, June 2013