Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: K. 498, Trio for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano in E-flat, ‘Kegelstatt’

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” trio belongs to two peculiar genres: 1) works for clarinet, viola, and piano — a small genre which was inaugurated by this piece; and 2) works which acquire a memorable nickname for no good reason. A kegelstatt is a bowling alley, or a place where people play skittles; this piece has nothing to do with skittles, or bowling, or the Big Lebowski, for that matter. It’s just a piece which Mozart wrote for his piano student Franziska Jacquin and his friend the clarinetist Anton Stadler. Mozart liked to play the viola, and that made a trio. The clarinet was a fairly new concert instrument at this time, and Mozart wrote several pieces for Stadler to play on clarinet and/or basset horn: a concerto, a quintet, some fantastic arias in late operas, and a set of twelve duos (which he did allegedly write while playing skittles). These pieces helped establish the instrument for centuries to come. That said, the “kegelstatt” trio is not a particularly important piece — it is merely a beautiful one, written for friends in the friendly key of E-flat, for enjoyment at home, or at the bowling alley, or wherever one happens to want to play it.

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