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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000788.txt from 2004/10

From: "Keith" <>
Subj: [kl] Mozart, Don Giovanni, and Tony Pay
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 2004 10:05:55 -0400


From hanging about with you, I'd say it was because four flats was an
illegal key for clarinet writing at the time. Is this the only case of
Mozart writing in this key, or did he ever use the four flat key signature?

He had the right idea. I think it still should be illegal :-).

The broadcast is great. I have not listened to the concerto yet, just to Non
Piu di Fiori. Awesome! A beautiful sound. It is interesting that one can
tell where the cross fingerings occur on the period basset horn.

Keith Bowen

Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 13:29:48 -0700
To: ">
From: "dnleeson" <>
Subject: Mozart, Don Giovanni, and Tony Pay
Message-ID: <>

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

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?)

Dan Leeson

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