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Thea Musgrave

Publisher: Novello & Co

Towards the Blue (2010),
Commissioned by the Wigmore Hall
Work Notes
First performance 27 January 2010; Wigmore Hall, London; Michael Collins, clarinet; London Winds; Endellion Quartet
Novello & Co Ltd
Soloists and Large Ensemble (7+ players)
Year Composed
13 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
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Programme Note
Thea Musgrave Towards the Blue (2010),
During a visit to the exhibition of Francis Bacon at the Tate Gallery in December 2008 my eye fell on Figure in a Landscape (1945) which resonated in me powerfully. It is a scene of devastation and despair, and also, it seemed to me, of latent anger and hostility... but above it all a serene blue sky beckons. So, perhaps even in the darkest moments there is a glimmer of hope – the possibility of change.

This idea became the starting point for this work - Towards the Blue - a mini concerto for clarinet, who eventually becomes the leader of the group.

The work starts without the clarinet and all is desolate, yet fiercely argumentative, discordant and uncomfortable. Suddenly the offstage clarinet is heard and the players in surprise are quietened. However, when the clarinet enters and approaches with a lyrical musical motive, some of the players respond, others resist. Gradually the clarinet persuades the dissident voices to join him in a spirit of co-operation and harmony.

A brief memory of the opening desolation casts a momentary shadow which is quickly dispelled by the coda which is marked Giocoso.

Thea Musgrave

Preview the score:

Aside from Collins’s robust finesse, Musgrave’s springboard was the Francis Bacon 1945 painting Figure in a Landscape, in which the figure survives as a grotesque smudge, glowering under a strip of bright blue sky. For the veteran Musgrave the sky equals hope; so does Collins’s clarinet, which starts offstage, then leaps in with perky flourishes, trying to soothe the crabby arguments of the other forces (four wind, four strings). Everyone reaches the blue by the end, even though given Musgrave’s engagingly emollient style the music is never far from blue to begin with. The 13-minute piece made a splendid diversion.
Geoff Brown, The Times,02/02/2011
Towards the Blue turned out to be the highlight of the evening, dramatic, well argued, you could tell the players enjoyed every minute. I’d love to hear this again - surely the litmus test of any new piece.
Mark Prescott,,28/01/2011
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