Monday, February 04, 2008


I tend to get big doses of OCD when it comes to my music. In this case I tend to listen to certain styles of music obsessively before moving slowly, reluctantly, to something else. Lately I've been stuck in the Baroque, vaccilating back and forth between Bach and Vivaldi with a touch of Handel thrown in for good measure. This afternoon I jumped forward in time by randomly pulling out some Mozart. Okay, not so random as it turned out. I chose a CD of Mozart from the top of the pile out of one of my boxes and it turned out to be a CD containing 3 of my favorite woodwind concertos. Yes I love his 4 horn concertos, but there is just a part of me that is drawn to his Clarinet Concerto K622, Oboe Concerto K314 and Bassoon Concerto K191.

Even though I've had quite a bit of musical training (even got a nice fancy piece of paper out of the deal) I find I have a hard time writing about music at times. Putting my thoughts and feelings about music into words.....its like I somehow limit the music or put it into a certain little box or corner.....trying to contain what for me cannot be contained. Anyhow, with this one caveat, I figured I'd put a few thoughts down about some of my favourites woodwind concertos while keeping clear of the ferocious temperatures outside my window at the moment. So here goes.......

Clarinet Concerto K622 - Wurttemberg Chamber Orchestra - This is one my favorite concertos. Of course I could say this about all 3 works off the disk. Sure, it's dark and brooding throughout and Mozart would be dead a mere 2 months after he wrote it but I love how he makes the clarinet just sing. The clarinet stands out on its own rather than just following along with the orchestra and filling in the harmony as is the case with many earlier concertos of the classical era. Writing it specifically for a clarinet virtuoso was also a big help I think in keeping this work well-known. Plus, the clarinet was a fairly new instrument at the time, so once again we have Mozart showing off his ability to grasp the capabilties and potential of new instruments and write just plain good music.

Oboe Concerto K314 - English Chamber Orchestra - I can't really put my finger on why this has been a favourite of mine (for many years now). Thematically, I don't find it as interesting as his Clarinet Concerto, but I've always been drawn to the sound of the oboe for whatever reason. The theme of the third movement sounds familiar to me for some strange reason. I'm not 100% sure but I think Mozart may have borrowed this theme (or vice versa) from an opera aria. I'm not sure which opera it is though. Part of me wants to say "The Magic Flute", but I'm not sure. I should also add that I love the English Chamber Orchestra. I have quite a few Vivaldi bassoon concertos performed by this same group and the playing is crisp and clean as always.

and speaking of bassoon concertos....

Bassoon Concerto K191 - Bamberg Symphony - This is one of Mozart's earliest bassoon concertos (I think he was about 19) so by listening to all three concertos in the reverse order off the disk you get a pretty good idea of Mozart's musical development. This is also one of the first non-piano works I heard. No longer is the bassoon instrument a simple continuo instrument! There are some fairly demanding passages, particularly in the opening movement. What impressed me most when I first heard the piece some 20 years ago was just how much of a musical range the bassoon was capable of producing. There aren't really that many well-known bassoon concertos out there which I think is a shame. The only ones I'm really familiar with are the one Vivaldi wrote (all 37 of them!) But its nice to see what is usually regarded as a bass instrument get its due. And....check your closets, basesments, archives everyone, because apparently Wolfy wrote 4 other bassoon concertos that have been lost. (I just love it when I hear of lost works being discovered.....but that is the subject of a whole other post.)