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Thea Musgrave

Publisher: Novello & Co

Wind Quintet (1992)
commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, Brigham Young University
Novello & Co Ltd
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Year Composed
12 Minutes
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Programme Note
Thea Musgrave Wind Quintet (1992)
Commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University.

First performed by the Orpheus Wind Quintet on March 19, 1993 at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

In this work the five instrumentalists, alternating between soloistic and accompaniamental roles, enact a kind of mini-drama without plot. The players are therefore asked to play throughout with the kind of freedom of expression that is found in opera.

There is one single movement with four sections:

1. Andanate espressivo: con molto rubato. Out of a quiet unison note (E), the flute emerges as a lyrical, expressive voice. Shortly the oboe with increasing agitation begins to challenge this mood. The horn becomes increasingly restless.
2. Più mosso: drammatico. The horn finally interrupts with a dramatic solo. Against this, the bassoon, and then the clarinet introduce an even faster tempo (a kind of moto perpetuo) which leasd eventually to a wild, anarchic cadenza, the climax of the piece (con passione).
3. Mesto: elegiaco. When the cadenza dies away, the bassoon sets a slow elegiac mood, accompanied by a simple chordal motif.
4. Andante espressivo. A return of the opening section, where both flute and clarinet now share the slow expressive theme. But this lyricism is not allowed to be re-established for long; the oboe again begins to intrude with increasing agitation, only to be fiercely interrupted by the horn who reintroduces the ‘chordal motif’ as well as a brief memory of the earlier moto perpetuo. The same ‘chordal motif’ eventually leads to a soft tolling cadence.

  • Ensemble
    The Mühlfeld Ensemble / English Serenata
    Stephen Varcoe, baritone
    Clarinet Classics:
The meatiest music of the day, celebrating its composer’s 90th birthday next month, was Thea Musgrave’s Wind Quintet of 1992. Here the clear part-writing played to the Atéa’s strengths, so that the individual voices drew maximum drama from the narrative flow. I can’t remember when I have enjoyed a day of new music more.
Martin Dreyer, The York Press,09/04/2018
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