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Concerto for clarinet, harp and orchestra

composer

 
Rudolph was the eldest son of Arnold Dolmetsch, and when able was drafted into the fold as a member of the family ensemble on harpsichord. He went on to establish himself as the foremost harpsichordist of his time. We are lucky that he left various recordings performing solo and alongside his wife Millicent who was a viola da gamba player. Into the 1930s Rudolph began to break away from the family institution of making music together with period instruments and to focus more on his own career. He was recognised as the leading harpsichordist of his generation but felt the need to establish himself as a composer and conductor, so much so that he went to study conducting at the Royal College of Music under Constant Lambert. Upon leaving the RCM Rudolph began his own orchestra and proceeded to give concerts, the first of which was in 1940. This concert received positive reviews and included works by contemporaries such as Sibelius, Kodály and the recently deceased Delius.

The Concerto for clarinet, harp and orchestra was completed on 24 November, 1939. The work is unique in that it is the only one of its kind for this combination of instruments by an English composer. Earlier in the month Rudolph had made his conducting debut with the London Symphony Orchestra which was widely acclaimed. It is conceivable that he might have had hopes that the principal players might take an interest in this concerto. The principal clarinet of the LSO at the time was Reginald Kell. However, it is more likely that he was intending it for his own orchestra. The work is dedicated to Millicent and is scored for chamber orchestra.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Rudolph signed up to the Haslemere Home Guard while continuing to perform and conduct. His last concerts were in 1942 before being ‘posted’; Rudolph was to be posted overseas as a bandmaster, but sadly his ship SS Ceramic was torpedoed with only one survivor. A promising talent cut short.

The work is in three movements and treats the orchestra and soloists like a Neo-Baroque concerto of concertante and ripieno with a central cadenza for the two soloists in each movement. The first and third movements suggest ritornello forms while the soloists answer the orchestral arguments in virtuosic style pushing both solo instruments in range and technique. The second movement is an ostinato first stated in the cellos and basses and then reinforced by the bass clarinet. The soloists decorate the ostinato moving throughout the orchestra which builds to the central cadenza. The orchestra restate the ostinato and the soloists take on the responsibility to complete the movement.

from notes by Peter Cigleris © 2021

Recordings

Rediscovered - British Clarinet Concertos
SIGCD656Download only Available Friday 26 March 2021

Details

Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Larghetto ostinata
Movement 3: Scioltamente

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