I have written a Cello Concerto for Yo-Yo Ma, a Flute Concerto for Jean-Pierre Rampal, a Violin Concerto for Elmar Oliviera, a Piano Concerto for Emanuel Ax, and a String Quartet Concerto for the Alard. The Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra, written this past year for Richard Page and the Pittsburgh Symphony, is unique among the Concertos I have composed. It is the first time that I have written a Concerto for a member of the orchestra that is not typically considered a solo instrument.
Over the last decade I have written a number of works that included a substantial role for the Bass Clarinet. When the opportunity came for me to write a concerto for the instrument, I was thrilled. With subtle nuances and coloristic individuality, the Bass Clarinet can be tempestuous and tender, ethereal and driven. The Bass Clarinet has three very distinct registersthe deep resonant, profound bottom, a middle that can be warm and pliant, and a top that is brilliant with an electric quality. The extraordinary registers, the unique and wonderful sound that it produces, the amazing flexibility it possesses, and its ability to convey a different kind of expressiveness greatly appealed to me.
With the above very much in mind, the work is conceived on three levels. At one plane, the Bass Clarinet is front and center, commanding the stage. At another level, it interacts within the ensemble playing a distinctive but collaborative role. On the third plane, the clarinet is part of the aggregate force helping to shape the evolving score. The interaction, transformation and variants are what will project the work forward. The concerto emerges out of two highly contrasting ideas: a gentle lyric line heard at the very beginning, followed twenty-three measures later by a taught, five-note motive.
For the first time, I have written a Concerto in a single movement. It could be called a Concerto-Fantasy. The give and take between the lyrical and dramatic and what comes in between give the Concerto a fantasy-like sheen. And the work clearly has as its protagonist the soloist… the Bass Clarinet.