Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet in E flat Major
Giocomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), originally Jakob Beer, was born in a small village just outside of Berlin. Upon his maternal grandfather's death in 1811, he added his grandfather's first name to his last name and then while studying in Italy, changed his first name to the Italian form. Meyerbeer, one of the most famous 19th century opera composers, and chamber music are rarely if ever mentioned in the same sentence. However, Meyerbeer, who was a close friend of the German clarinet virtuoso Heinrich Bärmann, wrote a quintet for clarinet and strings in 1813, which he dedicated to his friend.
Those who are familiar with Carl Maria von Weber's Op.34 Clarinet Quintet will find considerable similarities between Weber's quintet and Meyerbeer's. This is almost certainly no accident. Consider this: Both Weber and Meyerbeer were studying with the Abbe Vogler in Darmstadt at the same time, both became very close friends, both were close friends with Heinrich Bärmann, both wrote quintets for Bärmann, and both quintets date from almost exactly the same time, although most likely, Meyerbeer's was completed first. Like Weber's quintet, Meyerbeer's is also a vehicle for the clarinetist which is treated at times as a soloist, but the strings are not mere accompanists.
Just how many movements the Quintet has is the subject of some dispute. The work was not published during Meyerbeer's lifetime. A handwritten copy of the score was found among the papers of Bärmann's son Carl upon his death in 1885. It only had two movements--an Allegro moderato and a Rondo, allegro scherzando--although it could be argued that the second movement was two movements in one in that there is a lengthy adagio section to be found in the middle of the allegro scherzando. The work was published in the fashion. In the 1980's, the famous clarinetist Dieter Klöcker claimed to have found "the missing middle movement", an andante and set of variations, in the form of a set of parts on which Carl Bärmann had written that the music had been composed by Meyerbeer for his father. The work was subsequently published with this new movement. However since then, a number of scholars have disputed Klöcker's claim for several reasons, the chief among these being that it is unlikely an entirel movement would have been completely left out of a score and that it was quite possible Meyerbeer had intended this music as a separate work. Weber had done something similar. Hence our new edition, which follows the autograph score, does not include this "new" movement.