June 24, 2013

Performer's Perspective: Kenny Grant on Mozart's Clarinet Concerto

Thanks to RPO Principal Clarinetist Kenny Grant for sharing thoughts, background, and insight on Mozart's Clarinet Concerto; Grant performs the concerto with the RPO July 19, 2013.

About the concerto:
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto was one of his last compositions, K. 622. It was written for Mozart's friend Anton Stadler, who performed it on a special instrument, the basset clarinet in A.

About the basset clarinet:
The basset clarinet is a cousin of the modern day A clarinet. Mozart used it in some of his operas, but the instrument never really survived out the classical era. It's longer than the modern clarinet, and a major third lower. I'll be performing the work on the basset clarinet, which I have done twice before with the orchestra.

The basset clarinet has a very deep mellow tone and is a lighter quality sound compared to the modern day A clarinet. The use of the basset clarinet allows the performer to have an extended range past the normal A clarinet, allowing certain passages not to be broken up by an octave displacement. 

Manuscript mystery
The original manuscript of the concerto was lost and has never been found. Mozart gave it to Stadler, who either lost it or sold it for money. Mozart's wife, Constanze, believed the  latter, writing "Stadler declares that while he was in Germany his portmanteau was stolen, with these pieces in it. Others, however, assure me that the said portmanteau was pawned there for 73 ducats."

What makes it great?
The concerto is for sure one of the most popular works by Mozart and is performed frequently. The slow movement is probably one of the most beautiful moments of the three-movement work. For clarinetists, the concerto is a work that we perform for an entire lifetime. It grows in depth and scope as we constantly re-open it time and time again to draw out the beauty of this composition written by a true genius.

Hear Mozart's Clarinet Concerto performed by Kenny Grant and the RPO, July 19, 2013 at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. The program also includes Wagner's Overture to The Flying Dutchman and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.