The Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A is one of the finest pieces ever written for clarinet. It was written near the end of Mozart's life, in 1791, before his famous Requiem. It has three movements: Allegro, Adagio, and Rondo Allegro, and is a little over thirty minutes long.

Mozart originally wrote the Concerto for the basset clarinet--in fact, he wrote it for his friend Anton Stadler, who invented the basset clarinet--but you don't see too many of those lying around in music stores these days, so the piece is generally transposed for a Clarinet in A or a plain old B-flat Clarinet.

To me, the Clarinet Concerto is the purest example of music itself. It is completely abstract, it varies endlessly on a beautiful theme, and it radiates emotion. Also, it shows off the clarinet itself perfectly: it covers almost all of the instrument's huge range, and explores the tone and technical possibilities. The first movement is rich and dark, the second movement is mournful and deep, and the third movement is delighted and unrestrained.

I think I like the Clarinet Concerto so much because Mozart makes it seem so natural. Every note and phrase is so perfectly placed. When I first heard it I thought: "I have to learn to play this." (I play clarinet). I got a copy of the sheet music and started noodling (technical term for playing the tricky bits on a clarinet) around on it. I am still trying to get it right, but it's worth every minute of practice.

Mozart Clarinet Concerto (together with his Clarinet Quintet) transcends his previous compositions by default. The adaptation of an impersonal view point is what distinguishes it. Imagine someone telling you in a detached manner—almost as if from a third party perspective—about his unhappy and unfulfilled life.

To be sure, there are emotions eloquently expressed, especially in the profoundly sad Adagio; but those are emotions from the past, emotions one can now look upon with resignation and perhaps even with wistfulness. Relating a story in Past Perfect tenses often makes it more poignant.

Then there is this astonishing economy and childlike simplicity in the construction of most of the subjects used. One can find no better example of how, in the maturity of his art, Mozart has fully mastered the technique of distilling the very essence from music.

I cannot agree entirely with Rampal, the famous flautist, who observed that only the French knows how to play the flute, but I tend to think the English have unique talents with the clarinets and with the oboes. My favorite recording of this concerto is, without a doubt, Jack Brymer’s. The merits of the Academy of St. Martin-In-The-Fields needs no introduction, and Neville Marriner’s sympathetic accompaniment added immensely to this marvelous, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, reading of a piece of music that is truly divine. In my opinion, all the power of Brymer’s musicianship and talent are met in the final four notes by the Clarinet in the Adagio. Listen to how he conjures up the last four notes: tentatively at first and then valiantly proceed onto the inevitable end.

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