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Clarinet Concerto in A Major K622

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Clarinet Concerto in A Major K622

1. Allegro
2. Adagio
3. Rondo - Allegro

In March of 1784, the great 18th-century clarinet virtuoso Anton Stadler (1753-1812) held a benefit concert at the National Court Theatre in Vienna. Johann Friedrich Schink, a writer who attended the concert, reported: "My thanks to you, brave Virtuoso! I have never heard the like of what you contrived with your instrument. Never should I have thought that a clarinet would be capable of imitating the human voice so deceptively as it was imitated by you. Verily, your instrument has so soft and lovely a tone that nobody can resist it who has a heart ..."

Mozart wrote several "glorious and sublime" works specifically for Stadler, including the Clarinet Concerto in A Major. All clarinettists owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Stadler; because of his remarkable abilities and his friendship with Mozart, the repertory for the instrument has been infinitely enriched.

A week after Stadler's benefit concert in 1784, the clarinettist and the composer played together in Mozart's Quintet for piano and winds, K.452. That began a musical collaboration which culminated in Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, K.581 in 1789 and the Clarinet Concerto in 1791. But Mozart also created the great obbligato clarinet and basset-horn parts for La Clemenza di Tito for Stadler, along with the florid clarinet lines in his Cosi Fan Tutte. Even the second version of Mozart's G-minor symphony, K.550, with its added pair of clarinets is thought to have been written specifically with Stadler in mind.

Not long after the composition of the Clarinet Quintet, Mozart began work on sketches for a Concerto in G for basset horn and orchestra (listed as K.584b), also intended for Stadler. The composer wrote only a fragment of the first movement before stopping work; two years later, in the fall of 1791, Mozart used those sketches (now transposed up to A major) as the basis for the Clarinet Concerto, K.622, the last major work he was to complete. As Alfred Einstein writes "the greatness and transcendent beauty of this work are such as its high Köchel number would lead us to expect. One almost has the impression that Mozart felt impelled to express again, in greater and dramatically animated form, what he had already expressed in more lyric form ... in the Quintet." Mozart surely knew the extent of his final illness while writing the work; it is profoundly personal in tone, a heartbreaking sadness underlying the utter serenity of the music.

The manuscripts for both the quintet and concerto had disappeared by the time Constanze Mozart set about having inventories made of her husband's works. When an early edition of the concerto was published by Breitkopf and Härtel in 1802, an anonymous reviewer in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung noted the "Mozart composed this concerto for a clarinet going down to the c" (a range lower than the conventional clarinet). He pointed out that certain parts had to be transposed and acknowledged the work of the editors "for those transpositions and variations for the usual clarinet." And so, the Mozart Clarinet Concerto became known in a standardized edition which includes substantial changes from the composers original. The question of the extended range - those notes beyond the reach of the standard clarinet in A - remained a mystery.

Notes by Ara Guzelimian

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