Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Quintet in A, K581 (1789) and Johannes Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Opus 115 (1891) are towering pillars in any review of chamber music repertoire as well as the foundation for all chamber music repertory for clarinet. No serious performer of chamber music, professional or otherwise, or devoted concert goer will go through life without experiencing these inspired and popular compositions. Nonetheless, the body of repertoire for string quartet with clarinet is vast, exciting and certainly worthy of closer attention and inspection.
Those works scattered across the century between Mozart and Brahms’ virtuoso compositions, the enormous number of works that emerged in the wake of Brahms’ late 19th century masterpiece and the continuing interest from living composers for this unique combination of instruments offer a variety of repertoire that reflects virtually every style of musical composition since the late 18th century. Upon discovery of the immense number of works available and with exploration in the diversity of styles one can only conclude that we have what is truly a genre unto itself—the Clarinet Quintet.
Banner image: Coleridge-Taylor, Clarinet Quintet (RCM MS 5009). Image used with permission from the Royal College of Music, London.