Hyperion Records

Clarinet Quintet
The Clarinet Quintet was written in 1977 and first performed the following year in Munich. This is in four movements and exhibits a degree of compositional mastery that is wholly exceptional in music of its period. The work begins in pastoral vein, with a relatively lengthy idea which is developed until the clarinet asserts its individuality by cutting across the mood, leading to a lively new scherzando section in which the clarinet, now firmly in command, takes on the character of a true boulevardier. The pace remains very fast, but the clarinet, riding over the music, relaxes proceedings for a third section, a more considered view of the material, until the scherzando returns, playfully full of glee, to dance along to the final bars.

The dance-like element continues in the second movement, with scraps of thematic material woven into the texture, as light as gossamer and thistle-down, the whole controlled by an instinctive and admirable feeling for pace and structure. A solo viola idea (almost English in its inherent modality) opens the slow movement, to be answered by the clarinet and the other strings. A secondary, rising theme now follows, maintaining the warm and tender musical atmosphere, a feature of which is the highlighting of various instruments for brief solo passages—this aspect lends a widening of texture, almost visually panoramic, to the music. A gathering of forces ushers in a more anguished development from which the clarinet, in its chalumeau register, intones a lengthy theme of calm and graceful character. As the strings take this up, the clarinet weaves melismata around the strings, drawing the music to its close.

A gentle ‘motoric’ rhythm on the strings sets the finale in motion, before the clarinet enters with a dance-like jolly, salty tune. Formally, the finale is what might be termed a ‘sonatina-rondo’ with superbly varied episodes displaying much imaginative skill from the composer. A cadenza from the clarinet heralds the lively adieu.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1998

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Details for CDA67036 track 11
Recording date
23 December 1997
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
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