Famous clarinet works: concertos

Written by Mozart in his maturity, this work reigns supreme as the classic masterpiece for the A clarinet. Overflowing with the wonders of Mozart, the work blends flowing melodies and exuberant passages. The composer wrote this concerto for his friend, the clarinetist Anton Stadler. Stadler had newly developed the "basset clarinet," which differs from the ordinary clarinet in that it has an extended lower range, and it was for this instrument that Mozart penned the concerto. However, only the score for the version of the work which was adapted to allow it to be played on an ordinary clarinet survives, and the concerto is generally performed using this score. Recently, however, there have also been performances of this work using reconstructions of the basset clarinet.

Famed for his operas, such as "Der Freischütz," Weber (like Mozart) composed music for the clarinet for his friend, the clarinetist Heinrich Bärmann. Thanks to the friendship between the two men, five works have survived: two concertos, a concertino, a quintet, and a duet for clarinet and piano. Since Bärmann was renowned as a virtuoso who could sound notes throughout the entire register with equal ease, this first concerto has a wide range.

Born in New York, Copland is one of the most outstanding American composers of the twentieth century. Copland composed his concerto for the great twentieth century clarinetist Benny Goodman. Against the backdrop of a colorful orchestration, the work naturally features virtuoso passages and cantabile, and is also tinged with jazz elements to suit Goodman-the master of swing jazz-resulting in truly American-sounding music. Incidentally, Goodman's playing attracted many composers, with Bartók's "Contrasts" and a Hindemith concerto being dedicated to him.

Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman (1909-1986)