The Quintet uses a typical four movement format with Allegro, Larghetto, Menuetto and Allegretto giving variation in mood and pace back and forth from fast to slow. Like most classical pieces, there is a clear development in a straight line from start to finish, with repetition here and there which gives it a regular structure. Mozart uses chromatic harmonies but they are not allowed to dominate. One of the most noticeable features of the orchestration is how the clarinet and the other instruments alternate, as if they are playing with each other. A good example of this is the second movement which starts with the clarinet and cello, goes on to use clarinet and violin, and carries on with these changes so that the clarinet pops in and out of the music. It is not just a main clarinet with strings accompanying it. All of the instruments take over the melody and then give it back to the clarinet.
The greatest strength of the piece is the lyrical voice of the clarinet which is fully used in all its range and flexibility. If it has a weakness, it is the adherence to the classical format, which is perhaps a little bit predictable. The piece is one of my favourites, especially the second movement because of the sadness that is pouring out of it. According to Wold and others (p. 233) Mozart is “the most nearly perfect musical creator in the history of Western music” and this quintet is one of his most popular and most perfect compositions and so it is unlikely that it will ever be