Trio in E-flat Major for Piano, Clarinet and Viola, K498 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Trio in E-flat Major for Piano, Clarinet and Viola, K498 (1786)

The standard statement about this piece is that Mozart signed the autograph copy of this trio “Vienna, 27 July, 1786, while playing skittles,” hence, the title “Kegelstatt,” which means bowling alley. However, this story is disputed by Stanley Geidel, as quoted below:

Plath and Rehm point out that the subtitle “Kegelstatt” was possibly erroneously transferred from Mozart’s set of Twelve Duos for Two Wind Instruments, K. 487. The manuscript of these Duos, dated nine days earlier than the Trio, bears the inscription “untern kegelscheiben” (i.e., “during a game of skittles”). Köchel, in his catalog of Mozart’s work, confirms this inscription in the Duos. No similar inscription appears in the manuscript of the Trio.

I have personally examined the manuscript of the Trio at great length, and written extensively on this great work. It is very clear that the “Kegelstatt” music is in fact the Twelve Duos, this fact confirmed by a note in Mozart’s own hand, which appears on the Duos. In the final analysis, all of this confusion most likely arose from a publisher’s error.

The trio, now irrevocably but as it turns out erroneously labeled as the “Kegelstatt,” is in three movements: a moderato, a minuet, and an allegretto, all sharing nearly the same tempo. Mozart wrote the piano part for one of his students and the clarinet part for a friend. As he often enjoyed being in the middle of the musical texture, he played the viola part himself.

-Notes by Stephen Senturia based on materials by Gary Meyer and Stanley Geidel.

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