This is our Clarinet Quintet flex (Clarinet/String Quartet). Best known through two masterpieces that easily rank among the greatest chamber works of all time, Mozart's Quintet in A, K.581 and Brahms' Quintet in B minor, Op.115, the Clarinet Quintet is usually programmed by string quartets with a guest clarinettist. It is however a firmly established medium with an enormous variety of repertoire reflecting virtually every compositional style since the late 18th Century.
Blending the sonorities and expressive qualities of the traditional string quartet with solo clarinet produces a powerful combination. The medium arguably began as a way for instrumental soloists to perform concerto-type works on a much smaller scale while on tour (in Mozart's time most towns would have musicians, but not necessarily enough for a full orchestra). While some works treat the medium in this way, it evolved into so much more; the Brahms in particular demonstrating and setting precedent for the equal importance of each instrument. In conjunction with the Mozart, this gave birth to a whole new medium.
From favourites including the lush Mozart Quintet (written for Stadler's special extended instrument, the Basset Clarinet), sublime Brahms Quintet and operatic Weber 'Grand Quintet', to lesser known gems from Max Reger, Jean Francaix, Paul Hindemith, Louis Spohr, Alexander Glazunov, to beautiful and haunting English works from Herbert Howells and Arthur Bliss, to more contemporary works from Kalevi Aho, Elliot Carter and Harrison Birtwistle, to fun arrangements including Piazolla; there are well over 100 major works for this ever growing medium and offer fantastic variety.
Clarinet & Piano Quintet
Clarinet / Violin / Viola / Cello / Piano
The Clarinet/Violin/Viola/Cello/Piano Quintet flex is an interesting combination, bringing together all five of our founding members. In addition to drawing from our entire trio and quartet repertoire, there are a range of existing works for this unique combination.
Famous Austrian composer, cellist and pianist Franz Schmidt is perhaps unjustly neglected due to his association with the Nazi party. Once ‘endorsed’ by the Nazi’s it’s a difficult mark to remove; but accounts from friends’ state “Schmidt was never a Nazi and never antisemitic... [just] extremely naïve about politics”. Schmidt composed three quintets for the one-handed pianist Paul Wittgenstein (who also commissioned one-handed works from Ravel, Prokofiev and Strauss, among others). Two were for this unusual combination; the second of these his swan song, completed just a few months before his death in 1938, showing his Viennese and classical-romantic roots, steeped in the tradition of Brahms and Reger. Rarely performed, they are finely crafted compositions deserving of wider recognition.
The earliest work on record (1905) is a delightful quintet from French composer/organist Théodore Dubois; originally with Oboe, it was published with Clarinet as alternative. It is a gripping modern work from American composer/pianist and conductor Lowell Liebermann that is perhaps most enticing however; mystical, full of luscious lyricism and dreamy rippling textures with an underlying almost sinister energy and sense of urgency.
In addition we have commissioned three works to date for this flex; with thanks to our SJSS Young Artists Residency. These include a new work from Russian composer/pianist Elena Nemtsova based on our name ‘Mirage’, and two orchestral transcriptions from pianist Thomas Ang; most notably of Rimsky-Korsakov’s immensely popular setting of Mussorgsky’s ‘Night on the Bare Mountain’!
Selected for the 2016/17 St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme