Through Spring with a Dancing Clarinet

The clarinet - a spring instrument? © Charles Thibo
The clarinet – a spring instrument? © Charles Thibo

The clarinet,  ah, the clarinet! What a beautiful instrument if mastered by its owner! A few months back, I presented Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, KV 622, but others have used this beautiful instrument. In chamber music for example. Carl Stamitz for example. The son of Johannes Stamitz, member of the Mannheim School*. In 1774, Carl Stamitz composed a set of six clarinet quartets (op. 14) and the one written in D major, a beautiful little piece, reminds me of a joyful walk in the forest with birds shining everywhere and greeting spring. It is full of joy and optimism, peace and hope. I can almost see the nymphs dancing to the gaily tunes.

Stamitz played the violin, the viol and the viola d’amore player. He was a leading member of the second generation of the Mannheim School, “a widely traveled performer and a major contributor to the literature of the symphonie concertante and concerto”, says Oxford Music Online. In 1770, Stamitz went to Paris and alternatively composed and performed. The clarinet quartets  saw the light in Strasbourg, where one of his teachers, Franz Xaver Richter, whom we have already met in an earlier post, lived. Stamitz traveled in 1774 to nearby Augsburg and onwards to Vienna.

Niche recordings

I truly appreciate that young musicians try to set a foot into the recording market by studying and performing little works. There are so many treasures out there, and it will forever be beyond my comprehension why the world needs an umpteenth recording of Beethoven’s sonatas or Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. And the Stamitz family is a good case in point. Four of Carl Stamitz’ clarinet quartets have been recorded in 2008 by the Hungarian Authentic Quartet, founded by Zsolt Kallo in 2002 with the aim of focusing on historically informed performance* with a balanced repertoire of musical rarities and classics.

I cannot assess how demanding Stamitz’ pieces are as I am not a clarinetist, but judging from the recording, those are lovely light pieces of little complexity and great entertainment value and fit in nicely with the trios for orchestra written by Johannes Stamitz. For once, there is a composing son not in total opposition to his composing father!

© Charles Thibo<

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de Chareli

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