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Benedict Mason

Publisher: Novello & Co

Clarinet Concerto (1995)
co-commissioned by the Helsinki Festival and the BBC
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
1995
Duration
35 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
clarinet
Programme Note
Benedict Mason Clarinet Concerto (1995)
Clarinet Concerto
- commissioned jointly by the BBC and the Helsinki Festival: world premiere

Kari Kriikku- clarinet

In the last year, four pieces have been composed for the four major European new-music ensembles with their specific local concert halls in mind. These works may be performed in any auditorium. All of them are difficult to present, and upset people’s preconceived notions of presenting concerts.

- For the Ensemble Modern with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra in the Mozartsaal of the Alte Oper, Frankfurt, August 1994:

Second Music of a European Concert Hall: Ensemble Modern/ Freiburger Barockorchester/ Benoît Régent.Mozartsaal.

- For the Ensemble InterContemporain in the Espacwe de Projection as IRACAM, Pompidou Centre, Paris, November 1994:
Third music for a European concert hall (espro: eic: I love my life)

- For the London Sinfonietta in the Albert Hall, London, August 1995:
Clarinet Concerto

- For the Asko Ensemble in the Paradiso Amsterdam, August 1995:
ASKO PARADISO: the Fifth Music. Resumé with C. P. E. Bach


I consider Second Music for a European Concert Hall: Ensemble Modern/Freiburger Barockorchester/ Benoît Régent. Mozartsaal. In every respect, by far and away the best piece I have written.

These pieces work with distance and resonance rather than spatial effects in the Gabrieli or Gruppen manner. Musicians make the sound and the building does the rest, treating the material of the hall, and the hall itself, as an instrument.

Space being a way of articulating theatre musically, these pieces function in terms of the perception, consciousness and awareness,of a concert hall audience: indeed there would be no point in doing them in a theatre. However, it the Clarient Concerto the function of thestage is as important as in theatre, and the stage has to be completely bare, and devoid of chairs, stands and other paraphernalia.

Deliberately one avoids being composerly in this music: too much ‘musicky’ artifice and musicosemantic connotation distracts from the physical and acoustical process being set up. Harmony is as neutral as possible and only there (if at all) by implication. Likewise the activity of the ripiendo is very light: too much accompaniment sets up the wrong kind of rhetorical concerto-expectations.

I work often with the material quality of the instrumental sounds- the keys, reeds, breath, bows and strings as sound per se, not as ‘avant-garde’ effect.

Quiet music is difficult to play and difficult music is hard to play quietly. Also it is difficult to achieve real quietness in musical performance.

This piece takes its time: it is mostly subdued, undramatic and uneventful.

Trying to find a simple abstract music that is still telling through adding qualities of direction and distance (real illusory or imaginary)to a sound.
Eschewing context, consequence, development and artifice, or ‘musicality’ as we have come to know the term.
Not ‘musicky’ music with all its idiosyncratic parameters, but the sound the instrument makes and what happens when it activates/ energises the acoustical space.
Things at the extreme edge, or balanced skilfully between, showing a new kind of virtuosity and control, where the performer is free to develop his or her personal potential and expression with the instrument.
Not exercise or study, not ‘avant-garde’ art piece, but attempting to steer a subtle course in-between, testing and using what is seen and heard to work.

Programme note © Benedict Mason

Reviews
In the half-hour work, only the solo clarinet is seen on the concert platform and the rest of the orchestra is distributed around the auditorium, or in this case the corridors and galleries of the Albert Hall. The concerto, written for the phenomenal Finnish player Kari Krikku, is the latest in a series of works in which Mason has explored the relationship between an ensemble and the hall in which it performs, making use of the acoustic properties of the space and the effects of distance to lend enchantment to his musical argument.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,1/1/0001
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