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