Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is highly regarded as one of the greatest pieces in clarinet repertoire. However, it was not originally written for clarinet.
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A is shrouded in mystery, as the original manuscript of the work has never been found. His original copy of the concerto went missing in 1791 (the same year Mozart died) and has never been found. As a result, there is much debate among clarinetists, musicologists, conductors, etc. regarding the edition of the work that most closely represents the original piece. The problem is, there is no original manuscript to which we can compare the many editions of the work.
Mozart wrote the piece for his friend and fellow Freemason, Anton Stadler. It is assumed that Mozart’s clarinet concerto is a continuation of a work which he abandoned years before – a concerto for basset horn, the manuscript for which we still have today. It is speculated that Mozart began work on this piece around 1787, and used the unfinished manuscript as the framework for the clarinet concerto. The first 199 bars of the abandoned concerto for basset horn are identical to the clarinet concerto.
The clarinet concerto was likely written to showcase Anton Stadler’s invention – the basset clarinet. A special clarinet in the key of A, records indicate that Stadler’s instrument had a range that extended lower than the traditional range of an A clarinet (an additional minor third, to be exact). The clarinet virtuoso premiered the piece in Prague on October 16, 1791, mere weeks before Mozart’s death on December 5, 1791.
The concerto continues to be performed, and remains a beloved piece in classical orchestral repertoire. The Kentuckiana Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to be performing this iconic work with soloist Brad Rogers, director of bands at Oldham County High School, on May 9th, 2019. Tickets are on sale now.