From Where I Sit: Sacred quintets and a crooning spaniel

Continuing our guest blogging series – “From where I sit“, we asked clarinettist Mark Walton to share his first memories of two profound works: The clarinet quintets by Brahms and Mozart…


Mark's photo 1.thumbnailFor clarinet players, the Mozart and Brahms Quintets are sacred. Every phrase is embedded in our hearts. Not only do these masterworks have pride of place in our repertoire, they also hold true significance in the wonderful world of chamber music. Both works were written shortly before Mozart and Brahms died and show a profound maturity and exquisite beauty.

However many times I am fortunate enough to perform these works it is a highlight even if it is the most modest of concerts to the smallest of audiences. The music is so truly great that everyone is transported into a better space.

My first memories of performing both the Mozart and Brahms Quintets was in the Chamber Music New Zealand Schools Chamber Music Contest and for this I am forever grateful. My brother played 1st violin and we were tutored by the finest teachers here in Christchurch. We often rehearsed at our viola player’s large old house in Halswell where her dog would sit outside on the veranda and sing along with us. To this day when the violins start their sublime melody at the start of the Mozart Quintet I brace myself for the crooning spaniel.

(Video: Mark performs a variation of Larghetto from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in 2012 with pianist Jacqui Baddock)

Sadly I will miss the upcoming NZ performances given by the New Zealand String Quartet with my good friend James Campbell but what an occasion these concerts will be with five such insightfully sensitive musicians and two of the giants from the chamber music repertoire.

– Mark, 28.04.2014


Mark, who splits his time between Australia and New Zealand, plays both clarinet and saxophone, and is also a prolific composer, arranger and well respected teacher. Find out more about Mark, his work and the book he has written on his musical journey “How Did That Happen?” : www.markwalton.com.au

It seems the more we explore these two works we come to learn they leave a lasting impression on those who experience them. James Campbell himself told us,

“Some works transcend all explanation…These works take a lifetime for musicians to learn, but they also take a lifetime for listeners to hear. I am sure there are many in the audience who have been listening to these works for their entire life and can perhaps remember how they ‘heard’ them at different stages in their life. Great music is a lifelong companion, slowly revealing her secrets as we mature.”

We’d love to hear about your experiences and encounters with these works – if it is the first time or the hundredth…share ’em with us!

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