Quintet for Piano and Winds in E flat K.452

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)
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Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (b. 1756 - d. 1791)

Performance date: 06/07/2017

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1784

Duration: 00:24:32

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Quintet

Artists: Christoffer Sundqvist - [clarinet]
Joonas Ahonen - [piano]
Hervé Joulain - [horn]
Peter Whelan - [bassoon]
Olivier Doise - [oboe]

This Quintet is one of the most joyous works of music ever penned. Mozart himself, writing two months after its composition, described it as the best thing I have ever written in my life.

In the spring of 1784 Mozart was riding an incredible surge of popularity. He took part in twenty-two concert appearances in the space of a month many of them devoted to new works, such as the two wonderful piano concertos K.450 & K.451. The subscribers to his concerts were the cream of Viennese society and Mozart in his triple role as impresario, performer and composer was over the moon. But we must always remember the fickleness of the Viennese for only five years later Baron von Swieten was the only subscriber to Mozart’s proposed concert series in 1789.

One of the fashionable developments of the 1780’s had been the Harmonie or wind-band, often sextets or octets, which were hired to provide rich households with so-called Tafelmusik, just as in the last Act of Don Giovanni. The music for these occasions was often arrangements of popular opera melodies and, naturally, it meant that the Austrian capital boasted many fine wind players, which is reflected not only in Mozart’s wind serenades but also in the scoring of his piano concertos. All this woodwind activity is reflected in Mozart’s striking technical skill in writing for winds, where he knows to perfection exactly how each instrument lies.

This Quintet has the distinction of being on the first page of Mozart’s Catalogue of all my Works that he began in February 1784, alongside the four Piano Concertos K.449, 450, 451 & 453. Each entry is numbered with a title, date, orchestration and the first two or three bars of music.

The majestic Largo that opens the work immediately presents all the wind instrument both individually and together. Within his unusual group of instruments Mozart uses every opportunity to explore the differences in sonority and to create his glorious kaleidoscope of effects. The main Allegro is in the usual form of exposition, development and recapitulation, but the interest is primarily in the extraordinary way in which the instruments are both given their individual solo spots and combined with the others. The Larghetto achieves a form of such jewelled perfection that we instantly understand Mozart’s pride in his creation; each instrument including the piano is given absolutely equal status. The final Rondo is more reminiscent of the piano concertos with the novelty that all five instruments get their cadenza – entering one by one, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and the piano – thus confirming their collective status as soloists.
– Francis Humphrys