In recent years I have come to enjoy listening to the Mozart “Clarinet Quintet in A, K 581.” I appreciate the finesse and musicality of the performers, the contrasting moods of the several movements, the tight-knit construction of the piece and its overall charm. It is, after all, by Mozart ~ one of his superb mature works. But it was not always so. For many years I cringed whenever it came on the radio and even avoided attending concerts on which it was programmed. Why did I feel such antipathy to this outstanding example of the chamber music repertoire? Let me tell you a cautionary tale.
Back when I was still a performing member of the Lancaster Musical Arts Society ~ it must have been in the mid- to late 1980s ~ a well-known Lancaster violist called me with a request. A clarinetist in the organization, wanting to fulfill a lifetime dream of performing the Mozart Quintet, had asked the string quartet which she led to play with him on a Musical Arts program the following spring. Unfortunately, their first violinist would be out of town on the chosen date. Would I be their sub? Learning a major new work at that particular time was not something I was eager to do, but she had baled me out a couple of times when I needed a viola on short notice, so I said Yes.