Clarinet Quintet in A major, K581 – Mozart

the-swing-1767.jpg!Large

The Swing / Les Hasards heureux de L’Escarpolette (1767) 

       Jean-Honoré Fragonard

                __________

it wouldn’t be fair to overlook Mozart 
when it comes to string quartets, after
all, he wrote 23 of them, but they’re 
not what he’s famous for, you have to 
go to his piano concertos for that, 
sublime things, and, in my estimation, 
to one of his chamber pieces, his 
utterly enchanting Clarinet Quintet,
in A major, K581, which, since I prefer
chamber pieces, I turn to most often

but to go to a quintet so quickly in a
discussion about quartets could be 
disconcerting, after all, you’ve got
somebody else at the table, you’ll
need another chair, another place 
setting, more food, for four still of the
standard courses, some of those even
elaborate, all this makes a difference

plus the new guest is to be accommodated, 
should typically be given the place of honour, 
as well as a distinct voice, command, like a 
soloist in a concerto, though, of course, be
less peremptory, more, indeed, courtly,
courteous, where, incidentally, the word
“courtesy” comes from

the sound of the clarinet in this quintet
mimics the sound of birds, midst the 
strings’ foliage, the guest, as it were, at 
the party, the piece delivers a wonderfully 
pastoral setting, a mainstay of that period 
see even above – an allegorical return to  
Mother Nature as a guiding principle over
the irascibility and the imperviousness of 
the Christian God, not to mention the 
search for a, nearly obliterated, feminine 
principle, deity

the second movement, the larghetto, 
which means a slow largo, which 
means it’s really, really slow, is 
accordingly melting

also, where would that movement be 
without the clarinet, I ponder, the guest 
that evening of especial honour, I get  
momentary glimpse at genius then 
and marvel, Mozart had written this for 
a clarinetist frienda friend he must’ve 
really admired

all the other movements are equally
consummate, unforgettable, perfect

I promise


R ! chard

psst: here’s Mozart’s 17th String Quartet
          no 17 in B flat major, “The Hunt”,  
          nevertheless, a quartetone of his    
          several, however perfunctorily