I lied. Instead of more piano concertos today, I’ll skip to Mozart’s clarinet concerto at the recommendation of my friend Chris Hutchinson.
We’ll be listening to the Concentus Musicus Wien led by Nicolaus Harnoncourt. The soloist is Wolfgang Meyer.
Apple Music (If you open on your PC, it takes you to the iTunes page. If you open on your phone it takes you to Apple Music.)
Clarinet Concerto in A Major K. 622
- Horns are very active in introduction before soloist’s entrance.
- Soloist’s line blends more seamlessly into the orchestra than an instrument like a piano.
- Lots of back and forth between major/minor.
- Mozart really uses the full range of the instrument, allowing the soloist to show off a wide variety of musical effects (bouncy arpeggiated bass, fluid legato melodies, etc.)
- Wow, there are some major mood and tempo shifts in this movement. Very drastic.
- Lively interplay between soloist and orchestra.
- I’m hearing fewer of those isolated wind section moments. The clarinet sounds mostly accompanied by strings and the horns. The flutes and bassoon (to my ears at least) have extended rests. This carves out some tonal space for the clarinet.
- Some lovely and brief parallel harmonies between clarinet and strings shortly before end.
- It’s hard to explain my reaction to this movement. In many ways, it’s quite plain. But listening to the actual performers, it’s clear that it’s one of those pieces where the performer must be very aware of the proper style of playing or else it could be very dull. In this soloist’s hands (and lips), the phrases seem to come from nowhere and gently vanish. The whole piece has that great Mozart flow and exposure and grace. But it’s not really a show-off piece. There’s a lot of yearning without going overboard.
- Surprising harmony near final minute during repeat of earlier music. Very brief. I don’t believe that was there at the beginning, though future listenings may prove me wrong.
3. Rondo – Allegro
- Right off the bat with some fiery playing.
- Piece spends a lot of time in minor. Very high contrast.
- The piece uses a lot of crescendos to accents followed by a quick diminuendo. The dynamics convey so much movement in this.
- The orchestral transition to the C section is very blustery.
- A very beautiful moment of silence.
- The piece requires progressively more virtuosity from the soloist. Though it’s always very restrained. Never faster or louder than lovely.
- Very exciting coda.
A few takeaways
- This was late Mozart, and it can be looked at in context of his other late work. However, he didn’t write much for solo clarinet, so it can also be seen as something of an experiment.
- The super high contrast between major and minor sections in the first and third movements stand out to me. The minor sections don’t sound like they’re there just to serve his modulation purposes. They’re too dramatic. They’re so dominant, that I’m having a hard time right now thinking of this piece as happy or sad despite being in major. Manic seems to be the more appropriate word.
- In the sections where the clarinet isn’t playing, I’m surprised by the prominence of the horns. They carry a lot of weight here. In comparison to the other pieces I’ve listened to so far, the winds (namely the flutes and bassoons) are slightly demoted in prominence. Naturally that doesn’t apply to the soloist.
- The solo is very demanding. There’s a lot of virtuosity required, but there’s no escaping the need for a very refined style.
This was very rewarding. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I definitely enjoyed this. Until next time.