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Viola and Clarinet Concerto

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As far as I have been able to find out, there is only one viola and clarinet concerto and it was written by Max Bruch. Bruch wrote his double concerto for viola, clarinet and orchestra op.88 in e minor for his son Max Felix, who played clarinet.

Max Karl August Bruch German Composer
Max Karl August Bruch, German Composer
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For his son, Bruch had also written the eight pieces for clarinet, viola and piano op.83, the same group of instruments for which Mozart wrote his Kegelstatt Trio and Schumann his Marchenerzählungen (Fairy Tales).

(click on the picture to enjoy Bruch's double concerto while you read).

His son performed the eight pieces and his playing was compared to that of Richard Mühlfeld, the clarinet player for whom Brahms wrote his sonatas, and later transcribed for viola.

In the viola and clarinet concerto the two solo instruments share the same sort of mellow tone, that Bruch favoured.

In addition to these works, in this period Bruch wrote the Romanze for viola and orchestra op.85, dedicated to Maurice Vieux, the principal viola of the Opéra and Conservatoire orchestras in Paris.

The Romanze and the viola and clarinet concerto were written in 1911 at the age of 73 and together with the eight pieces, they are clear examples of Bruch's style. As a composer he was always a conservative, in the style of Brahms. Bruch was a strong opponent of the 'modern madness' and 'modernists' like Strauss, Reger, Debussy (the latter defined by him as an 'unqualified scribbler') and others, and felt that he was being boycotted because of his traditional style and his open opposition.

The movements of
Viola and Clarinet Concerto

The concerto is in three movements, with the viola opening the Andante con moto with a sort of recitativo, followed by the clarinet, with the two soloists alternating through all the very melodic, expressive movement. Then an Allegro moderato follows and a lively Allegro molto dominated by a triplet rhythm with more challenging passages for both instruments.

In a review of those years it was described as 'weak, unexciting... unoriginal', maybe more because of the musical context in which it found itself: two years before Stravinsky introduced his Sacre du Printemps (1913), Bruch was still composing in his romantic style.

Anyway, I really like this concerto, it's a great addition to viola repertoire, very pleasant to listen to and play.

Bruch also wrote a version of this concerto for violin, viola and orchestra, as well as a transcription of the trios for violin, cello and piano.

(It's not only the viola that borrows other instruments' works!).

Listen and watch the whole concerto performed by Yuri Bashmet, viola; Yevgen Yehudin Clarinet; The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Andante con moto

Allegro moderato

Allegro molto

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Concerto for viola, clarinet and orchestra op.88 (piano score); and the
Eight pieces for clarinet, viola and piano op.83 (piano score)
Free sheet music Free MIDI files

... and more free viola music.

Or, if you prefer an already printed and bound version, you can buy Bruch viola and clarinet concerto here. It has both clarinet and violin version, together with the viola and piano parts, of course.

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