Wild Swan: Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra (2006)
WILD SWAN—Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra was an orchestral arrangement of Concertino for Clarinet and String Quartet, a work written in 1994. The orchestra version was commissioned by the New West Symphony, premiered On May 16th, by the orchestra at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, California, conducted by Bright Sheng with Gary Ginstling on the clarinet. The instrumentation calls for the solo Clarinet in Bb and A, two flutes (second doubles the piccolo), two oboes (second doubles the English horn), two clarinets in Bb (second doubles the bass clarinet), two bassoons (second doubles contra-bassoon), three French horns in F, two trumpets in C, one tenor trombone, one bass trombone, timpani, two percussionists (glockenspiel, xylophone, bowed crotales, two temple blocks [medium and low], wind gong, large tamtam, bass drum), harp and strings.
The new title of the work was inspired by an amazing performance of the chamber version at the Tanglewood Music Center during the summer of 2005, an equal experience of both the beautiful and the untamed. Although some significant changes were made during the rewriting, the work, on the whole, remains in the same character as the original version.
Many Central European composers, such as Bartók and Janácek, have believed that the fundamental elements of their music came from both the folk music of their region and the prosody of their native languages. Therefore, they believed, when one understands the folk music and languages from these regions, one can truly understand and appreciate their works. This may be true, but the music of these composers is nonetheless widely liked and admired by millions who know neither of these things. This is the goal I wish to achieve in my writing, which stems from Asian culture.
The materials of this work are drawn from fragments of folk tunes I heard over thirty years ago when I was living in the northwest part of China. What struck me then was that, unlike most Chinese folk music, the folk music of that region is not based on a pentatonic scale. Rather, it has a seven note scale similar to the mixolydian mode (the seventh of eight diatonic species of the octave used by the Western Christian church through the Middle Ages and Renaissance). I wondered what it would be like if one were to use this melodic pattern in a work for Western instruments; would it lose its Asian quality?