Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds

27 January 2020

Q&A with Tom Barber, Principal Oboe

Our Principal Oboe, Tom Barber chats with us about what makes him smile in Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds. We perform this chamber masterpiece in our next Lock-In (Sat 8 February), an in-the-round performance that invites audience members to experience the music up close, reclined on cushions around the players.


Soon after the premiere of the Quintet for Piano and Winds, Mozart wrote to his father: ‘I myself consider it to be the best thing I have written in my life.’ Agree? 

I reckon he probably thought that after every new work! It is a fabulous piece and definitely one of his best at the time, though he hadn’t yet written the late piano concertos or the Da Ponte operas…

The quintet is scored for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon. This seems quite an unexpected combination, right? (Or have I just been listening to the wrong Spotify playlists?)

The piano concertos Mozart wrote around the same time contain long sections of chamber-like dialogue between the piano and winds, so I guess he just took the idea to its logical conclusion and disposed of the strings altogether!

What’s your favourite bit of the piece to play? 

The coda of the last movement never fails to make me smile – the brief moment of prayer-like calm in the winds before a mischievous romp to the end. It always reminds me of the ‘happily ever after’ epilogues in his operas. The cadenza for all five players in the finale seems especially magic.

Can you tell us how this part of the score works? 

It is written out in time (for obvious logistical reasons!) so the challenge is to play it in the free and improvisatory style of a cadenza whilst also keeping the five players in touch with each other. As well as being an exquisite piece of music, Mozart’s score is also something of a mystery thriller.

Would you please unravel The Curious Case of the Forged Final Page for us? 

Apparently the final page was lost at some point and a mystery person forged an alternative ending to fill the gap. They didn’t do a great job, so luckily Mozart’s original ending has been restored in all its glory.

This concert sounds like it follows an enjoyably informal sort of format. Can you explain a bit more about what the audience can expect at the performance?

In this Lock-In, they can expect to lie on a bean bag with a nice cold beer in their hand (should they wish) and listen to some live Mozart played by musicians sitting amongst them…


Mozart Quintet for Piano and Winds
Sat 8 February, 9.15pm
Hall Two, Kings Place

The Lock-In is our exploratory late-night series curated and performed by Aurora Principal Players. Each intimate and informal performance takes you on a journey of musical discovery across diverse genres and art forms. Expect eclectic musical encounters that unfold in new and surprising ways.