Written for the soloist Anton Stadler in 1789, Mozart’s melancholic Quintet for Clarinet and Strings is usually considered the earliest example of the genre. It marked a departure from the dominant concertanteidiom in writing for winds – in earlier works, such as composer’s Oboe Quartet and Flute Quartets, wind players had been awarded, unambiguously, the role of soloist. Indeed, by the late-18th century the solo capacities and tonal possibilities of the clarinet – an instrument still undergoing its evolution – were increasingly recognised. In his 1789 quintet, however, Mozart made Stadler first among equals; the clarinet is integrated within the strings to a great degree, with virtuosic moments carefully chosen to suit Stadler’s talents.

Performers on Stage Omega Ensemble Omega Ensemble performing Gordon Kerry’s Clarinet Quintet in the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. Photograph © Prudence Upt0n

As the clarinet continued to develop into the pre-eminent solo wind instrument of the time, concertante style chamber works featuring the instrument proliferated, especially from Viennese composers and clarinettists themselves. The German Carl Maria von Weber’s clarinet...

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