The Rumored Lost Masterworks of Clarinet Repertoire

Don’t get me wrong – the clarinet has an incredibly vast collection of repertoire, with masterpieces by some of history’s greatest composers. But there are rumors of great composers who supposedly wrote (or planned to write) a chef d’oeuvre for the clarinet. Maybe they succumbed to the clarinet curse or maybe these are just clarinet urban legends, passed down from generation to generation in hushed whispers. 

Whatever the case, here are the rumored lost masterworks of clarinet repertoire:
  • Tchaikovsky clarinet quintet – Tchaikovsky is my all-time favorite composer, and I have always bemoaned the fact that he never wrote solo or chamber music for the clarinet. However, it was rumored that he wanted to write a clarinet quintet, but he died before completing this. Maybe there are sketches somewhere?
  • Dvořák clarinet quintet – Like Tchaikovsky, Dvořák was supposedly toying with the idea of composing a clarinet quintet before his death.
  • Poulenc clarinet quintet – Maybe we should add a clarinet quintet addendum to the clarinet curse, because it’s a strange coincidence that none of these composers had the chance to write these quintets before their deaths.
  • Poulenc trio for clarinet, cello, piano – To be fair, maybe Poulenc fully intended to write this trio before he fell victim to the clarinet curse.
  • Weber Concerto No. 3 – Can you imagine the clarinet community if someone unearthed this rumored concerto?

Bonus: Two great works of clarinet repertoire with an air of mystery around their whereabouts and authenticity.

  • Mozart manuscript – The Mozart Concerto is one of our greatest treasures, but what happened to the manuscript? Renowned clarinet scholar Pamela Weston once asked musical clairvoyant Rosemary Brown this question, to which Brown replied, “It’s in that Oboisten’s house [wind player’s house].” The jig is up, Stadler.
  • Rossini Introduction, Theme, and Variations – Virtuosic, tuneful, and quite the showstopper – but did Rossini actually compose it? There is evidence that this piece might have been misattributed, but we might not ever know.


  • Dan

    Wait, so you don’t even need to write for clarinet to fall victim of The Curse™, planning to write is enough? That’s truly the most dangerous instrument to write for.
    I suppose I should finally write something, before I succumb to the curse and end up remembered as a guy who wrote for anything but his own instrument. ;)

  • Michael Bryant

    Dvorak: Clarinet Quintet in Bb minor B14. 1896/69? lost
    Dvorak: Octet Serenade 2cl, bn, hn, vn, va, db, pf B36. 1873 lost
    The composer may have rescored these and used them in other completed works
    B= Burghauser catalogue.

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