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Hugh Wood

Publisher: Chester Music

Clarinet Quintet Op.53 (2007)
Commissioned by the Rodewald Society for Nicholas Cox and the Chilingirian Quartet
Chester Music Ltd
Works for 2-6 Players
Year Composed
14 Minutes

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Programme Note
Hugh Wood Clarinet Quintet Op.53 (2007)
I have already written a piece for clarinet and piano called Paraphrase, and also a Clarinet Trio - which, despite the exemplar of Brahms, is a medium which remains an underpopulated piece of musical territory. But a Quintet is quite a different matter. The history of the Clarinet Quintet is so dominated by two masterpieces - the Mozart and the Brahms - that it would be ridiculous even to think of entertaining into any sort of competition with them. The prevailing mood of yearning and nostalgia which both works possess is incomparable and must remain so. This piece is no attempt at emulation, but I hope that it will be found a useful piece for present players and for future ones with which to vary their programmes.

There are three movements. The first has a type of formal structure I have often used before: one type of material (here fanfare-ish) is set against a contrasted one (pulsating chords on strings). The alternation is repeated and varied, with the two types expanded progressively. A third character enters in more lyrical and polyphonic style, and this provides a sort of middle section, and also a climax, to the whole. Nothing, of course, is literally repeated, but the return of the earlier material will be found familiar. The general tone is brisk and cheerful.

The second movement is nocturnal in character, and is really a prolonged series of solos for clarinet, melismatic and free in character, which are then echoed and commented upon by the strings, often muted and mainly mysterious. The ornamentation of the solo part becomes steadily more intense.

The finale returns to the vigour and energy of the first movement, but this time written against the general background of Rondo structure. Into it are woven elements of the preceding movements.

Hugh Wood (c) 2007

Sample Pages

  • 13 FEB 2012
    Hugh Wood at 80
    Amarylis Fleming Concert Hall, Royal College of Music, London
    Chilingirian Quartet
    Nicholas Cox (clarinet)
  • 30 AUG 2010
    Presteigne Fesival 2010
    St Stephen's Church, Radnor, UK
    Tippett Quartet
    Catriona Scott
  • 17 OCT 2008
    Chipping Norton Theatre
    Chilingirian Quartet
    Nicholas Cox, clarinet

    Other Dates:
    18 October - Hendon Music Club, John Keble Church, Edgware
  • 13 APR 2008
    Clarinet Quintet Op.53 London Premiere
    Conway Hall, London
    Chilingirian String Quartet
    Nicholas Cox, clarinet
  • 20 NOV 2007
    Clarinet Quintet Op.53 World Premiere
    Rodewald Concert Series
    St George's Hall, Liverpool, UK
    Chilingirian Quartet
    Nicholas Cox, clarinet

But this was a splendidly intimate piece. It opened with a lively conversation between clarinet and strings. It was a piece which flowed well and produced that hard-to-describe “English” sound. The lively rondo finale, too, was a particularly bright spot in the recital. However, the movement which evidently stole the hearts of the audience was the slow movement which was played again after the initial applause, on the request of the composer, who was present. This was a quite ecstatic piece with sublime harmonic shifts, achingly longing and wistful.
Glyn Mon Hughes, Liverpool Daily Post,22/11/2007
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