Clarinet Quintet (Brahms)

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Johannes Brahms's Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115 was written in 1891 for the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld.

The piece is known for its autumnal mood. It consists of a clarinet in A with a string quartet and has a duration of approximately thirty-five minutes.

Background[edit]

Clarinet quintets[edit]

At the time Brahms started composing his Clarinet Quintet, only a few works had been composed for this type of ensemble and even now there are not many. Examples include those by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Anton Reicha, Carl Maria von Weber, Franz Krommer, Alexander Glazunov, Heinrich Baermann, and Thomas Täglichsbeck. Brahms modeled his composition after Mozart's.

Brahms and Mühlfeld[edit]

Brahms had retired from composing prior to listening to Richard Mühlfeld play. Brahms may have met Mühlfeld already when Hans von Bülow was directing the Meiningen orchestra. But it was Fritz Steinbach, von Bülow's successor, who brought Mühlfeld's playing to the attention of Brahms in March 1891. Brahms was very enthusiastic about Mühlfeld.[1] That summer at Bad Ischl, he composed the Clarinet Quintet and his Clarinet Trio Op. 114, both of them for Mühlfeld. He later also composed two Clarinet Sonatas.

Performances[edit]

The quintet received its first private performance on 24 November 1891 in Meiningen,[2][3] with Richard Mühlfeld and the Joachim Quartet, led by Joseph Joachim who often collaborated with Brahms. The public premiere was on 12 December 1891 in Berlin.[2][4][5]

It soon received performances across Europe, including London and Vienna both with the original and other ensembles.

Structure[edit]

The piece consists of four movements.

  1. Allegro in B minor, in 6/8 time
  2. Adagio in B major, in 3/4 time modulating into B minor and then B-flat minor and back to B major
  3. Andantino in D major, in common time evolving into Presto non assai, ma con sentimento in B minor in 2/4 time
  4. Con moto in B minor, in 2/4 with a key transition to B major returning to B minor into a meter of 3/8 and then transforming into 6/8 time

First movement[edit]

Performed by William McColl and the Orford String Quartet

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Like the quintet by Mozart, the strings begin the piece. Only several bars after the clarinet's entry is it finally made clear that the key of the music is B minor rather than D major (the latter being the key in which the exposition ends, leading smoothly into the repeat of the clarinet's opening). This movement sets an autumnal mood for the rest of the composition.

One phrase, towards the middle played by the clarinet, sounds closely related to one in the first movement of Carl Maria von Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor. This was possibly inserted because when Brahms listened to Richard Mühlfeld at his recital, he was playing this concerto.

Second movement[edit]

Performed by William McColl and the Orford String Quartet

The reflective melody is first introduced by the clarinet. Later, the mood changes back to the gloomy atmosphere of the first movement. The clarinet performs technical runs playing from all ranges. It returns to the beginning theme and then subsides.

Third movement[edit]

Performed by William McColl and the Orford String Quartet

The shortest of all four, the movement begins sweetly being one of the composition's few uplifting passages. In measure twenty-three, the clarinet and violin play as if they were talking in a conversation. It modulates back from its heart-warming D major into the darker B minor. This section is highly influenced by the first part and even ends the same except being in a 2/4 meter.

Fourth movement[edit]

Performed by William McColl and the Orford String Quartet

This movement is titled "With Motion" and contains a theme and five variations as do the final movements of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet and Brahms's Clarinet Sonata No. 2. Tempo varies according to the musician. Another sweet melody which resembles the second movement is in this part and is in the same B major key. Later, it brings back the theme from the Allegro and ends with a loud chord which eventually fades away.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lawson, Colin Brahms: Clarinet Quintet, pp.31-32
  2. ^ a b Rodda, Richard E. "Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet in B minor, Op. 115". Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  3. ^ Toenes, George. "Richard Mühlfeld". Retrieved 2010-04-01.  from The Clarinet, No. 23 (Summer, 1956)
  4. ^ Freed, Richard. "Clarinet Trio, Op. 114". Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  5. ^ Bromberger,Eric. "Clarinet Trio in A Minor, Opus 114". Retrieved 2008-07-21. 

References[edit]

  • Lawson, Colin (1998). Brahms: Clarinet Quintet. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-58831-6. 

External links[edit]