There is usually some sort of extra musical starting point for my pieces, and for the Clarinet Concerto this was ‘The Cracked Bell’ by Baudelaire. In a short space of time the work seemed to take over and move further away the original stimulus, but the character and interactive roles of the soloist and ensemble were suggested by the wintry, evocative atmosphere of the poem.
The piece opens with declamatory, cadenza-like passages in the clarinet that are in turn commented on by the ensemble. A more playful section, where the clarinet line is very virtuosic, leads to a long, gently unfolding melody in the ensemble that begins in the depths of the bass register and gradually gets much higher. The virtuoso clarinet line, accompanied by a smaller group of instruments, interjects and pursues their own course until both culminate in a high, impassioned melody for the clarinet coloured and accompanied by fast-moving passage work in the higher registers. The movement ends with the call and response lines of its opening.
The second movement opens with an extended solo for the clarinet in its haunting chalumeau register. With each rising phrase, the clarinet line gets higher until the ensemble enters with unison tutti for the ensemble. The movement becomes much faster and energetic from this point, with fast, fleeting lines for the soloist and ensemble.
The third movement is the most reflective of the three. It opens with a Flute solo leading to the solo clarinet line, and makes much of the poignant singing style which is so characteristic of the instrument. A melancholy falling passage in the ensemble becomes a recurring feature before the clarinet refers to the piece’s opening in a more impassioned section. The piece closes with the gentle falling scales of the ensemble, dying away to nothing.
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