And now for something completely different. I enjoyed both Mozart’s (later) string quartets, and his clarinet concerto, so let’s see what something of a combination of the two sounds like. Is the clarinet more of a soloist or is it fully integrated into the fabric of the ensemble?
I’m listening to the Emerson String Quartet with David Shifrin on clarinet.
Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581
- Marked allegro, but it feels slower than that. At least at first.
- Very mellow.
- Clarinet is dominant as primarily melody-giver, but first violin and cello also have early solo moments.
- Some unexpected harmonies when the strings accompany with a syncopated rhythm.
- Imitative entrances in development. Clarinet plays arpeggios over everything.
- The clarinet has such a beautiful timbre, and pairing it with a string quartet is delightful. This piece makes me feel rich just to be alive to hear it.
- Strings with mutes (not cello).
- Clarinet plays melody.
- Gentle gentle gentle.
- Several surprising cadences.
- Accompaniment is simple, but it’s not banal or tiresome. It fits the piece perfectly.
- First violin trades focus often in portions. Some of the best moments are when the clarinet has a sustained tone above the more active strings.
- Lots of rocking back and forth on an interval of a second (a seeming favorite device of Mozart’s and even Haydn’s).
- No clarinet in first Trio.
- Rhythm is slightly disorienting. Especially with the acciaccaturas.
Allegretto con variazioni
- Playful back and forth between staccato and legato. Almost silly.
- First variation uses full range of clarinet in leaps between top and bottom registers.
- Second variation lets first violin play melody over violin 2 and the viola hitting steady triplets.
- Variation 3 gives some love to the viola. We’ve modulated to minor. Yearning, but it’s not too serious.
- Variation 4 is time to show off the chops of the first violinist and clarinetist.
- Then a shift to Adagio with some stabbing chord.
- Then to allegro with a decrescendo and a cadena.
- Remarkably mild “finale”.
This piece is so mellow throughout, but don’t let that fool you. There’s a lot a beauty here. For me, that’s mostly concentrated in the first two movements. Minuets are fine, but they tend to all sound like minuets. But the first two movements take such advantage of the timbral possibilities of these instruments and express that in delicate delicious music.
The final movement is a lot of fun. That swinging figure never stopped sounding ridiculous to my ear, which was great and hopefully the idea.
A+ stuff. I’m very happy I listened to this on the penultimate day of this project.
Until next time.