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Marc Neikrug

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Clarinet Quintet (2011)
G Schirmer Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Mixed Ensemble
Year Composed
25 Minutes
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Programme Note
Marc Neikrug Clarinet Quintet (2011)

June 30 2011
David Shifrin, clarinet
Orion Quartet
Chamber Music Northwest
Reed College, Portland, OR

Composer Note:
The clarinet quintet is in four movements. The first movement opens with a dramatic presentation of the generating motivic and harmonic elements of the entire piece. After building slowly to a climactic peak the music softens and morphs into a gentler lyric section which then transforms into a scherzo. The scherzo ends the first movement with a sense of propulsion.

The second movement takes advantage of the forward momentum generated by the scherzo to present itself as a very slow, lyrical exploration of the lyricism hinted at in the first movement. This movement is followed by a very brief Interlude which serves to prepare the forward thrust of the last movement.

The fourth movement begins with a reminiscence of the opening of the entire piece, now more condensed and dramatically moving forward. This bursts into a propulsive cello passage which serves as a pseudo rondo theme. This passage reappears three times with growing embellishment and alternates with rhythmically contrasting but always forward moving sections until it reaches a culminating coda with all the instruments in unison.

The piece is extremely virtuosic instrumentally as well as in its ensemble writing and makes great emotional demands on all the players.

— Marc Neikrug

Refuting any idea that modern chamber compositions are dry or difficult, Neikrug's piece had a definite coherence and accessibility, adhering to the traditional structure of a quintet, framed by two fast movements. The first movement of the Quintet serves as a kind of introduction and introduces the motifs that will characterize the rest of the piece. Neikrug uses pizzicatos to great effect throughout the piece, a device introduced in the very first bars. The movement allows the clarinetist to show off his full range, as well as his ability to jump from the highest pitches available to the clarinet to some of its lowest. It ends with a scalar melody by the clarinet over the soft, rhythmic string quartet and figures almost as a cadenza. The second movement is heralded by the string quartet in a dramatic introduction that is reminiscent of some of Shostakovich's moodier works, especially in the cello line. The clarinet soon takes the lead once more in a fugal yet wide-ranging exploration of the melody. The work transitions into a short third movement, which closes in a harmonically dissonant chord that was gracefully rendered by Shifrin and the quartet. All the elements come together in the final movement, making the structure and musical argument seem not only clear in retrospect but inevitable. The quintet ends almost playfully with the final bars played in unison by all the instruments. The same musicians gave the world premiere of Neikrug's quintet in Portland on June 30 of this year, and their comfort with the demanding and virtuosic work was clear in a tight and robust performance. The composer was present at the concert and seemed well pleased.
Susie Y. Kim, Boston Classical Review,13/11/2011
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