Reger Clarinet Quintet in A major op. 146


Reger’s clarinet quintet is the last of his chamber compositions. It was completed just 10 days before his sudden death of a heart attack. Unlike either Mozart or Brahms, Reger quite unobtrusively embeds the clarinet into the contrapuntal complex of the strings, obviously trying to restrain the idiomatic style of playing to which the clarinet is inclined. He tried to match the tone of the strings very closely and took especial pains not to allow the quintet to degenerate into a concertino. The entry of the main theme in the first movement, Moderato ed amabile, makes this quite clear. It is shared between the clarinet and first violin, without either instrument taking the lead. Formally Reger keeps to classical models. The opening movement follows sonata form but has three themes, the receives considerable attention and is used again in the third movement. The four movements are very closely linked by thematic material. In the second movement, Vivace, the theme resembles that of the first theme of the previous movement. The slow movement, Largo, with its plaintive sighs and dense scoring is particularly impressive. For the finale, Reger, as did Mozart and Brahms before him, chooses a theme with variations. In this case, there are eight variations. For the most part serenity is maintained throughout this autumnal work.

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