Have I ever presented to you the Swedish clarinettist Martin Fröst? No? I should have done so long ago for this man transforms abstract notes into music of pure, glittering gold. Fröst was born in 1970 and as a five-year old boy he started to play the violin. Three years later he added the clarinet. He deepened his studies in Germany and Stockholm and also took classes in conducting. In May 2017, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra announced the appointment of Fröst as its next principal conductor, effective with the 2019/20 season, with an initial contract of three seasons. The “New York Times” qualified him as having “a virtuosity and a musicianship unsurpassed by any clarinettist, perhaps any instrumentalist”.
At some point it had to happen. At some point I had to write about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, KV 626. Too many times I had listened to the overwhelming opening chant “Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine” (Lord, give them eternal peace). Too many times I had been swept away emotionally by the prospect of the eternal light shining upon me (“Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine”). Yesterday I heard it in an arrangement by Franz Xaver Süßmayr, performed by the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées and the Collegium Vocale Gent under Philippe Herreweghe in Luxembourg. Oh Lord, what a blessing! What a performance! Simply exhilarating!
There is something like a genealogy of sound: a piece that strikes you by the fact that it reminds you of something that you have heard from another composer. It may belong to an earlier or a later period or both, but you see the lines connecting the dots on the musical chart. Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 6 in B flat major (Op. 18) is such a piece. I first heard Franz Schubert’s more mature quartets, pieces he wrote under the monumental influence of Beethoven. And I heard Joseph Haydn, Beethoven’s teacher of whom he soon emancipated himself, exploring and transgressing the limits of Haydn’s sound as Schubert explored and went beyond Beethoven’s sound.
No strings today! Winds only to celebrate a lovely autumn day. This piece is a firework of creativity, unbridled enthusiasm and utmost beauty: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Serenade for Winds in B flat major, KV 361 (KV 370a). Mozart wrote it in Vienna together with two other serenades for winds between 1781 and 1784 while he was working on his opera “The Abduction from the Seraglio“, that I have presented in an earlier post. He scored it for two oboes, two clarinets, two basset horns, four horns, two bassoons and “Contra Basso”, which suggest a double bass, but the double bass is often replaced by the double bassoon. The excellent recording by the Bläserensemble Sabine Meyer has opted for this version.