The clarinet, Mozart & love

I grew up playing alto sax and clarinet in a 1940’s swing band. Little did I think that I would spend nearly 30 years as President of the Board of The Musical Offering, one of the finest chamber music groups in the country. I came late to chamber music; it is, indeed, one of the more sophisticated forms of classical music and I had to wend my way through the 1812 Overture, Strauss waltzes, La Boheme, and finally the Beethoven symphonies before discovering the exquisite joy of a Mozart string quartet.

I remember quite clearly my first chamber music concert. It was in Berkeley and Reginald Kell did the Mozart clarinet quintet with the Griller quartet. I was on one of my first dates with Noni, who was studying the Mozart quintet in one of her music classes. I was hooked — both on Noni and on chamber music. At our wedding, we marched up and down the aisle to the Purcell/Clarke trumpet voluntary and the Castelnuevo Tedesco march. And it has been a love affair ever since.

Posted in composers, life experience and tagged , .


  1. You seem to suggest that classical music listeners often travel a path of greater eventual sophistication. We start with the warhorse pieces and graduate to nobler and finer things? Is this a consideration, do you think, in the Musical Offering’s programming? Does the ensemble need to strike a balance between popular and subtle? Or is it their job to introduce us to things that simply aren’t heard outside such a chamber music venue? (If the latter, what does this suggest about cultivating new audiences?)

  2. Your question raises an important issue that is a constant challenge for us. We need to serve those members of our audience who are experienced chamber music listeners who are ready for a late Beethoven quartet and would love to hear an Andre Caplet woodwind quintet or a Walter Piston divertimento. But we must also be attentive to those who are new to chamber music and who have not yet heard a Schubert piano trio or the Mozart clarinet quintet. Not even to mention our responsibility to the music of George Pearle or Elliot Carter.

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