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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000765.txt from 2004/10

From: "dnleeson" <>
Subj: [kl] Mozart, Don Giovanni, and Tony Pay
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 16:33:51 -0400

As I type this, the BBC concert in which Tony plays 622 is on and
finally running fine. The opening number of the concert, is a
work that probably many of you have played dozens of times
because it is one of Mozart's most popular overtures, namely the
one to Don Giovanni. But as I heard it, I realized once again
that it is an overture with a peculiar problem for the clarinet
players, and it also has a peculiar problem for the entire
orchestra, too.

The clarinet problem is that in the first 30 measures for the
clarinets, Mozart deliberately writes for the instruments in the
wrong key. That's correct. He does it wrong on purpose. And
I've checked the manuscript in Mozart's hand (a copy of which I
own, so we talking about the straight skinny here), and that's
the way it is in the autograph, I assure you.

So here are the facts and then a question or two for the curious
among you.

The overture to the opera is in the key of concert d minor. For
this key, Mozart explicitly calls for a pair of A clarinets. What
this means is that the key signature of the first twenty measures
should be that of f minor or FOUR FLATS.

So why does Mozart write the clarinet parts in one flat? Not only
is it the wrong key, but he must personally write flats for e, a,
and d in order to get the other normally flatted notes played
correctly. So in the very first measure, he flats the a of the
second clarinet. And he also has to juggle the accidentals by
hand for either the first or second clarinet (or both) for
measures 19, 20, 25, 27, 28, and 29. That is, if he had written
the part using the correct key of four flats for the A clarinets,
he would not have needed to add those otherwise unnecessary
accidentals; i.e., those notes would have been flatted by virtue
of the key signature.

At measure 31 of the overture, the work slips from concert d
minor to concert d major and the A clarinets are happily left in
the key of one written flat which is exactly what they need for a
piece in concert D major.

So the question to the list is this: why did Mozart deliberately
write in the wrong key for a pair of A clarinets for 30 full
measures?? (And as an ancillary question, why did he not use a
B-flat or C clarinet in the overture? Why was he almost compelled
to call for A clarinets which he then wrote for in the wrong key
for 30 measures?)

As for the orchestra problem, the overture, when played in the
opera, goes directly into the first act without any transition.
But when played at a concert (as was done for the BBC broadcast),
a concert ending is needed. Until about 30 years ago everybody
played the ending created by Johann Anton André early in the 19th
century). But then a concert ending by Mozart was discovered and
now one hears that ending in concerts. The BBC program used it.

But the question is this: exactly where in the overture should
Mozart's concert ending be placed. The composer did not specify.
He just wrote an ending. And I am afraid that there is a problem
with its placement. I'm not criticizing Mackerras. He is too
trusting and believes that no editor could have made such a
mistake. But in my opinion, the editor for the NMA starts the
Mozart concert ending in the wrong place. It works of course,
but I do not think that this was Mozart's intention.

I prepared the edition for performances by the San Francisco
Midsummer Mozart festival so you should be aware that this issue
exists, still unresolved more than 200 years after Mozart wrote
the opera.

Tony's playing of 622 was exquisite, breathtaking, and with lots
of surprises. I have his recording made on a Selmer basset
clarinet, and then some years later he was my house guest when he
performed the work with the San Francisco symphony on that same
basset clarinet (which he no longer uses or even owns). But
today his conception and execution of the piece has evolved so
very much and changed that he now gives the work a completely
fresh approach that is complimented by enormous personal study of
the work. It is something that he takes very seriously, as any
artist should, and I am so pleased to see such a fine artist
still expend the time and effort needed to make that profound
work part of his genetic system.

Dan Leeson

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