'In the bleak mid-winter.' Gustav Holst
One hopes that the people around and about Mozart realised just how remarkable a composer and performer he really was, although much of the evidence from the time suggests that many failed to spot it.
While composers such as Sibelius or Grieg were honoured and supported by their own governments, Mozart was left to get by as a jobbing, freelance musician, constantly resorting to borrowing from friends.
Hopefully though, Anton Stadler valued Mozart’s work more than most. As the recipient both of this glorious work and of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, he was truly blessed. Mozart refers to this quintet in his letters as ‘the Stadler quintet’. Written when the composer was thirty-three, it pairs Stadler’s new basset clarinet (see the Clarinet Concerto entry earlier) with a standard string quartet. It was considered by many to be almost a dummy run for the great concerto. Mozart’s effortless writing, combined with some simply inspired tunes, means it is still one of the most widely played works in the repertoire today.
Thea King (clarinet); Gabrieli String Quartet. Hyperion: CDA30010.
Illustration: Mark Millington