Brahms (1833 – 1897) Clarinet Quintet in B minor op 115 1 Allegro   2 Adagio   3 Andantino   4 Con moto The Quintet’s four simply titled movements, listed above, reveal nothing of the mastery, intensity and musicality enshrined in each of them.  The work is often regarded as Brahms’s supreme achievement in chamber music.  The Clarinet Quintet genre up to this point had not been well served.  Only Mozart, Reicha, Weber and Glazunov of the major composers had written for this combination, Mozart’s having the greatest repute.  Brahms modelled his on Mozart’s famous example. When Brahms wrote this piece in 1891 he was an internationally renowned composer, moving into the autumn of his composing life.  In 1890 he had told his publishers, Simrock, that he was not going to write any more.  However, he continued to write a clarinet trio and sonatas, the quintet, some piano pieces and the Four Last songs.  Was he waiting for the right opportunity to compose a summation of his life’s work and effort?  It is not difficult, when listening to the quintet to consider this as a real possibility.  It is a deeply personal work, a journey through many emotions of light and dark, pessimism and optimism.  It looks back in its musical language and it looks forward too, to create movements of deep emotion.  All the material in the quintet is stated in the first two bars by the violins.  The thick scoring, (often the string parts are double stopping) low tessitura, the rhythmic complexity of the parts, asymmetric phrasing, the mastery of traditional counterpoint, consummate understanding and writing for all instruments, especially the clarinet and a wide range of musical styles are all woven with the utmost skill through all four movements. It is a beautiful piece to play.  It is technically challenging and leaves one constantly searching, exploring the music inside each movement, always finding more, knowing that next time there is even more to discover.  It is a true giant of the chamber music repertoire.  As a listener what more could one ask but to sit in a quiet place as the year comes to a close listening to this sublime work, written by a musician in the last years of his life but who used a lifetime’s experience and skill in a final work?
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Brahms (1833 – 1897) Clarinet Quintet in B minor op 115 1 Allegro   2 Adagio   3 Andantino   4 Con moto The Quintet’s four simply titled movements, listed above, reveal nothing of the mastery, intensity and musicality enshrined in each of them.  The work is often regarded as Brahms’s supreme achievement in chamber music.  The Clarinet Quintet genre up to this point had not been well served.  Only Mozart, Reicha, Weber and Glazunov of the major composers had written for this combination, Mozart’s having the greatest repute.  Brahms modelled his on Mozart’s famous example. When Brahms wrote this piece in 1891 he was an internationally renowned composer, moving into the autumn of his composing life.  In 1890 he had told his publishers, Simrock, that he was not going to write any more.  However, he continued to write a clarinet trio and sonatas, the quintet, some piano pieces and the Four Last songs.  Was he waiting for the right opportunity to compose a summation of his life’s work and effort?  It is not difficult, when listening to the quintet to consider this as a real possibility.  It is a deeply personal work, a journey through many emotions of light and dark, pessimism and optimism.  It looks back in its musical language and it looks forward too, to create movements of deep emotion.  All the material in the quintet is stated in the first two bars by the violins.  The thick scoring, (often the string parts are double stopping) low tessitura, the rhythmic complexity of the parts, asymmetric phrasing, the mastery of traditional counterpoint, consummate understanding and writing for all instruments, especially the clarinet and a wide range of musical styles are all woven with the utmost skill through all four movements. It is a beautiful piece to play.  It is technically challenging and leaves one constantly searching, exploring the music inside each movement, always finding more, knowing that next time there is even more to discover.  It is a true giant of the chamber music repertoire.  As a listener what more could one ask but to sit in a quiet place as the year comes to a close listening to this sublime work, written by a musician in the last years of his life but who used a lifetime’s experience and skill in a final work?