The last of Mozart's fifty-plus concertos is for the clarinet and dates from 1791, the final year of his life. It is a sublime work, full of poetic inspiration and luminosity - yet only relatively recently has it been demonstrated that it was not really written for clarinet at all, but for a basset clarinet, an instrument specially constructed by Mozart's friend Anton Stadler.
Recently, Stadler's unique prototype has been recreated, and now Mozart's concerto can increasingly be heard played on the period instrument. This is just what Antony Pay (right) is doing when he joins the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, conducted by Roger Norrington, as part of a Bath's Mozartfest event.
Pay has played the concerto many times on both modern and basset clarinet, so what are the differences between the two? "The basset's made of boxwood and has fewer keys, though it also reaches down to the lower notes which Mozart originally wrote. Basically it's a lot less powerful, which means that the entire timbre of the concerto is smaller and more intimate." "
And are there special problems to overcome when giving the concerto? "Not especially," says Tony Pay. "It's not a particularly difficult piece: just keep going, accentuate the phrases accurately and balance oneself against the accompanying ensemble... and pray that my reconstructed Viennese basset clarinet doesn't emit any horrible squeaks in the process."Reuse content