Brahms Meets the Clarinet


Brahms had never had anything good to say about clarinets. Or clarinetists for that matter. And
then when he was 57 years old he announced to his friends that he was retiring from composing,
never having written anything for the clarinet—of course.

Early the next year he traveled to the German town of Meiningen. The Grand Duke there had the
finest orchestra in all of Germany. Among the performances he heard were two clarinet quintets
composed by Mozart and Weber. They featured the wonderful clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld.
And in those brief moments, everything changed for Brahms. He realized what potential the
instrument possessed and became good friends with Mühlfeld. He nicknamed him “Fraülein
Klarinette” (Miss Clarinet).

All his creative urges surged to the fore once again, and music for Mühlfeld and his clarinet
poured out of him—first a trio and then a quintet; these were followed by two sonatas for clarinet
and piano.

On Friday, October 29, clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester will join the quartet from Vetta
Chamber Music at the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium to perform that quintet. I still remember
the excitement in George Zukerman’s voice, himself a distinguished bassoonist, when he told me
about a wonderful clarinetist who had just moved to the Vancouver area.

Franch-Ballester is now a professor at UBC and performs extensively. In fact, we will hear him a
second time this season on April 8, 2022, when the Young Beethoven program comes to

Tickets for this delightful program, which includes Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1, are
available at . They cost $28 for adults including seniors and $15
for students.

Proof of vaccination and ID will be checked at the door, and masks are required. There will be
no intermission and no pre-concert talk, and seating will be spaced. The doors will open at 7:00
p.m. Call 604-289-3377 for more information.

We are thrilled at the prospect of a return to live music. This promises to be an outstanding
program. I look forward to seeing you there.

John Wiebe
The Valley Concert Society