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Thea Musgrave

Publisher: Novello & Co

Ring Out Wild Bells (2000)
commissioned by Franklin and Marshall College for the dedication of the Ann and Richard Barshinger '43 Center for Musical Arts in Hensel Hall
Novello & Co Ltd
Works for 2-6 Players
Year Composed
14 Minutes
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Programme Note
Thea Musgrave Ring Out Wild Bells (2000)
Composer Thea Musgrave’s quartet for Clarinet and piano trio, was inspired by the following excerpt from In Memoriam, by Tennyson:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is dying in the night;
Ring out wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, in the true.

The composer writes the following about her work:

Bells often signal the passage of time, and also, sometimes, ritual. I therefore chose this famous excerpt from Tennyson as a kind of ‘hidden’ text, which would celebrate the new year, where one can let go of the past and welcome the future. Each line or pair of lines of the poem gives the emotional underpinning to each section of music. There are six sections which are played without a break:

I Declamatory: A vigorous start emphasising a G natural for the 'wild bells' ending in the higher regions for the 'frosty light'.

II Sombre: Slow tolling bells again on G for 'The year is dying'. The clarinet then softly tolls out the melody of the first line of the medieval chant 'Dies Irae' with a chordal accompaniment. This chant has three lines of text and so this section appears three times. It is interleaved with lyrical and more contrapuntal ideas initially led by the cello, though the piano keeps reminding us of the 'wild bell', (and later in a climactic moment, the other instruments do so too). A very slow end, 'let him die'.

III Lamenting: The clarinet, violin and cello mourn the passing of 'the old' but the piano is ready to greet 'the new'.

IV Exhilarated, very fast: A scherzo for 'Ring happy bells across the snow, / The year is going, let him go.' At the end of this section brief cadenzas for clarinet, then violin and then cello lead into:

V Mysterious and shifty: A short slow section 'Ring out the false'.

VI Peaceful and confident: 'ring in the true'. Memories of the very opening now in a peaceful mood, and the tolling G natural resolves at the very last measure to C.

Score sample

  • Soloist(s)
    Mark Troop (piano), Victoria Soames Samek (clarinet), David le Page (violin), Gabriel Byam-Grounds (flute), Matthew Sharp (cello)
    Clarinet Classics:
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