Chris and I have just walked home (through the park, under a starry sky) from a concert at MacKay United Church, a fundraiser for their piano purchase. We listened to Mozart's String Quartet No. 20 (K499) followed by Brahms' Clarinet Quintet performed by members of the NACO who live nearby: Leah Roseman and her husband Mark Friedman on the violins, David Thies-Thompson on a beautiful (Inokuchi 1997) viola, Margaret Munro Tobolowska on the 'cello and the Principal Clarinetist himself playing his instrument for the Brahms, Kimball Sykes. Good quality musicians, all.
It was enough to have heard the Mozart piece, especially its langorous slow movement with all the minor key modulations—why don't we know this piece better?—the remainder of the concert was a bonus. We recognised every note of the Brahms, in fact I remember following the score with great excitement during an A-level class at school in 1968 and discovering the Zigeunermusik in the Adagio! However I hadn't realised how pervasive the motto theme is in this work. Before the players launched into their performance of the whole thing Mr Sykes gave us an illustrated mini-lecture , pointing out the way in which the material from the first four bars of the first music generates everything that is to follow! He also revealed that Brahms in his late 50s had apparently decided to let younger men do the composing of German music as (by 1890) he felt he was getting past it, until he happened to come across the clarinetist Mühlfeld, whose musicality inspired him to start afresh.
I've just found this web page which includes the following description:
Mühlfeld’s playing style was apparently quite individualistic and somewhat outside the Germanic tradition of clarinet performance. In Germany he was lavishly praised; Brahms nicknamed him “Fräulein Klarinette”, “meine Primadonna” and “the nightingale of the orchestra”, and Clara Schumann described his playing as delicate, warm and unaffected, with perfect technique and command of the instrument. Reports of his concerts in England, however, were at times uncomplimentary, his interpretation, tone and technical execution being called crude and even comical; and in Vienna he was not regarded as equal to the best local clarinetists. In part at least, these contradictory opinions might have stemmed from Mühlfeld’s reported use of vibrato and his fiery, extroverted approach to performance, both perhaps attributable to his background as a violinist.