The clarinet was a brand new instrument when Mozart because enamored with it. The Stradivari family was already well-known for building the string instruments that are still considered the best in the world, but the clarinet was a relatively new invention. And anything new was a magnet for Mozart.
The trio that Mozart wrote for his friend, Anton Stadler, was the first trio with the combination of clarinet, viola, and piano, but not the last. The clarinet made an impression on Mozart and other composers of the time, and they began writing new music for the instrument, as well as including it in larger ensembles.
The early and complete integration of the clarinet was due, in large part, to the competence of the musicians who began playing it. Stadler was a virtuoso on many wind instruments and probably took up the clarinet with voracious enthusiasm. But even a brilliant performer needs a champion. Mozart gave Stadler two musical partners in the trio – viola and piano – and he played the viola for the premiere of the work at a local house concert. Then he wrote two other significant works: a concerto for clarinet and the clarinet quintet (with string accompaniment). From there, the clarinet found its place as a key member of the emerging wind ensemble.
Two musicians, willing to take risks, committed to working together, exploring and expanding the musical landscape in the late 1700s, brought to the forefront a new instrument, and cemented its presence as both a solo instrument and as an indispensible part of both the chamber music scene, and the developing orchestra.
Don’t be afraid of the new; create space for it.
This week’s playlist includes Mozart’s Trio for clarinet, along with three examples from other composers who followed his lead.