Accanto (1975–6), for clarinettist and orchestra, constitutes a turn towards historical reflection in the work of the distinguished German composer Helmut Lachenmann, providing a meeting point for the practitioner and the theorist. This article examines how Accanto's dialogue with Mozart's Clarinet Concerto relates to topics such as recording conventions, performance practices, and compositional trends, particularly in the 1970s. It also demonstrates how Lachenmann's conception of musical material is rooted in an understanding of the Western art music tradition, especially with regard to the issue of the ‘language-character’ of music. In doing so, it investigates Lachenmann's aesthetics of beauty in connection with performance practices, sociological models of musical subjectivity, and Adorno's understanding of tradition. In general, the article argues that compositional practice in Accanto is shaped in response to the situation of classical music, especially in the 1970s.
Alastair Williams is Reader in Music at Keele University. He writes widely on issues in contemporary music and is currently working on music in Germany since 1968. He is the author of New Music and the Claims of Modernity (Ashgate, 1997), Constructing Musicology (Ashgate, 2001), and a chapter on late modernism in The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music (Cambridge University Press, 2004).