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Name of Work

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)
Trio in E-flat for clarinet, viola and piano, K. 498

Rondo: Allegretto


Oct 03, 1999

Larry Combs, Clarinet
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Deborah Sobol, Piano

Oct 04, 1999

Larry Combs, Clarinet
Rami Solomonow, Viola
Deborah Sobol, Piano

MOZART - Trio in E-flat for clarinet, viola, and piano, K. 498

One of many memorable scenes in Amadeus, the Milos Forman film of Peter Shatfer's play, is of Mozart using a billiard table as a desk, making notes on a sheet of music paper and idly pushing balls away with his other hand, while the actors portraying his wife and his father are heard squabbling in another room of the couple's Vienna apartment. This glimpse can apparently be traced to a statement Constanze made in later years, that her husband often composed while in the midst of a game of billiards. Miles Hofiman of the American Chamber Players notes that it's therefore not unreasonable to believe that the name "Kegelstatt" (Skittle-Alley) attached to the Trio in E-Flat for clarinet, viola and piano means that the idea for the piece was suggested or inspired during a game that's related to our modem sport of bowling.

However the name originated, we do know that the trio was written for specific people. To quote Mr. Hofiman, who plays the viola himself: "[Mozart] did not like having to teach—he resented the imposition on the time he needed to compose—but he did not mind the teaching itself when the student was talented and motivated, and he did have several favorite pupils. One of these was the pianist Franziska von Jacquin, and it was for her that [he] wrote the Kegelstatt Trio. If the trio was for Franziska, however, it was also for Anton Stadler—the great clarinet virtuoso for whom Mozart also wrote the Quintets [K. 452 and 581] and the Clarinet Concerto, K. 622—and for Mozart himself, who was an excellent violist. These three would have played the piece for the first time at one of the many chamber music evenings at the von Jacquin home."

The charm of this Trio goes well beyond the pleasant image of three music-loving friends in the elegant ambience of an 1 Sth-century drawing room, playing a work specifically designed for themselves. There is, for one thing, the special beauty of moderate tempos throughout: no Presto, no Allegro Agitato, no Adagio Lamentoso. The keynotes would seem to be relaxation and graceful interplay. Then there's the mellow tone qualities associated with both the clarinet and the viola, each of which is a mid-register instrument. From the point of view of range, they blend very nicely, and Mozart sometimes treats them as duet partners. But since one uses strings and the other a reed, their sounds obviously contrast as well, and several passages in the three movements pit them against each other in a kind of antiphonal competition. Supporting all is the keyboard part, which occasionally speaks on its own.

The Trio was written in 1786, making it contemporaneous with several great Mozartean piano concertos and the opera The Marriage ofFigaro. For this performance, Larry Combs will play an 18th century-style clarinet with a range similar to the instrument Stadler would have used. Mr. Combs will shift to a modem instrument for Prokofiev's Quintet, which has a decidedly modem sound.

Program notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performed on October 3 & 4, 1999

Performance Audio

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