The Clarinet

The clarinet is the johnny-come-lately of the orchestral woodwind. Unlike those old baroque stalwarts, the bassoon, oboe and flute, it only really got its act together in the ‘classical’ period towards the end of the eighteenth century, and then mainly because of Mozart’s intervention. He produced two masterworks, a quintet and a concerto, which, taken […]


The last of the ‘Haydn’ Quartets [K.465 in C] has a nickname: Dissonance. Why? Well, look at and listen to the introduction to the first movement, below. Mozart: String Quartets (DG Collectors Edition), Hagen Quartet The eye is bewildered by all those accidentals – flats, sharps, naturals everywhere – and the ear! The poor ear, for the […]


Ah, I feel it, it has disappeared Forever gone love’s happiness! [Mozart – Die Zauberflöte Bernard Haitink/Lucia Popp/Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks Warner Classics] Lost love, rejection, despair: no, I know it’s not chamber music, but Pamina’s deeply moving aria from the second act of The Magic Flute demonstrates perfectly the emotions that Mozart associated with the […]

Skittles, anyone?

The Mozart trio for clarinet, viola and piano K. 498 has a nickname — it’s called the Kegelstatt Trio. Kegelstatt? Who or what is a Kegelstatt? The answer’s rather surprising, I suppose: it’s a skittle alley. And what has the skittle alley have to do with the trio? The answer’s simple and, again, I suppose, rather surprising: nothing. […]


The opening of Mozart’s quartet in E-flat, K.428 gives us really good opportunity to examine the composer’s use of chromaticism. What’s chromaticism? Well, an ordinary (diatonic) scale — as in Ex. 2 below (of C major) — uses only 7 of the available 12 notes between one octave and the next, whereas the chromatic scale […]

Gran Partita K. 361

Nobody seems absolutely certain when the Gran Partita was written, but it was most likely composed about the same time as the six ‘Haydn’ quartets (between 1782 and 1785). It’s Mozart’s largest piece for wind ensemble, both in terms of duration (50 minutes plus) and numbers (2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassett horns, 2 bassoons, 4 horns […]