Program Notes: Mozart’s Kegelstatt

by Jack Bryce

board member and
Carleton College
professor emeritus

Listen to Susan Billmeyer, David Pharris, and Gareth Zehngut perform Kegelstatt live on MPR hosted by Alison Young:

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Susan Billmeyer and Alison Young, MPR. Photo: Luke Taylor

The Trio in E-flat, K. 498 (1786), for clarinet, viola, and piano, is an extremely intimate and congenial work—and also quite unconventional—written for Mozart’s friends, the family of flutist Nikolaus Joseph von Jaquin.  His daughter Franziska, an excellent pianist to judge from this work, performed it first with Mozart on viola and the great Anton Stadler on clarinet, for whom Mozart also wrote the Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, and Clarinet Concerto, K. 622.  The sequence of movements is quite unusual:  Andante, Menuetto, and a Rondeaux: Allegretto.  The 6/8 Andante is warm, relaxed, and concise, with no repeats; the principal theme employs a grupetto or turn throughout.  The Minuet begins by using a theme with sharp dynamic contrasts and a pounding bass line, and features a contrapuntal development; the Trio uses a chromatic four-note phrase which reappears in various forms.  The final movement, in 2/2 time, is a rondo in seven parts, ABACADA, where theme A is singing melody drawn from the first movement; it ends with great flair, in an operatic sounding coda.  (Incidentally, Mozart did not call this Trio “Kegelstatt,” meaning Bowling Alley; that name seems to have been added by a subsequent publisher, perhaps in confusion.  For about a week before dating this trio, Mozart wrote 12 duos for French horns, K. 487, in July of 1786 while bowling; he noted it on the first page of the manuscript.)

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