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Quintet for clarinet, bass clarinet and string trio

composer
1983

 
The Quintet for clarinet, bass clarinet and string trio was originally written in 1981 at the request of the double bass player Gerald Drucker, who asked for a piece for his ensemble. Robert Simpson was attracted to the idea of a quintet for the somewhat bizarre combination of three double basses, clarinet and bass clarinet, beginning with a passage where the bass trio is actually introduced in harmonics, so that the two clarinets enter below! The composer later decided to rescore the quintet for more secure forces—string trio, clarinet and bass clarinet—and it is this version that appears on the present recording. The overall structure resembles Simpson’s String Quartet No 7 of 1977, a work in one continuous movement where two slow, contrapuntal outer sections frame an extended, vigorous Allegro.

The opening Adagio is fugal. A calm, floating movement unfolds, introducing each of the instruments in turn. Two salient intervals are presented in this opening statement: a repeated, rocking minor-third figure and a descending perfect fourth. The Allegro begins mysteriously. The tempo is altered from a slow triple metre to an alla breve, and the music is pervaded by a softly insistent repeated-note pattern. Two crescendos are built, after which the music bursts forth into a massive, striding one-in-a-bar, forming the central part. After a passage of maximum intensity the Adagio returns in shortened form to act as a coda. The two original intervals (minor third and perfect fourth) are still clearly evident, though they now create different shapes as the piece drifts away to a peaceful conclusion.

from notes by Matthew Taylor © 1993

Recordings

Simpson: String Quartets Nos 14 & 15
CDA66626Archive Service

Details

Movement 1: Adagio tranquillo –
Movement 2: Allegro –
Movement 3: Adagio

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