Comprised of five movements and a coda without interruption, Autumn Sonata was commissioned in 1994 by clarinettist Victoria Soames-Samek. The work was inspired by the poetry of Georg Trakl, an Austrian poet who died just after the onset of World War I, and Musgrave chose short fragments as prefaces to the major sections. She says that "in Autumn Sonata, the soloist is part of a dreamlike landscape suggested by the poetry".
Having composed extensively for woodwinds, Musgrave was intrigued by the unique timbre of the bass clarinet. She says:
The bass clarinet has always struck me as evocative of other worlds – worlds that exist as reality only in dreams. With its haloed and haunting tone, its presence in any score seems to conjure internal worlds far below the surface. Although its range is extensive, its unique timbre is most compelling in the lowest register, plummeting to depths at the core of the earth. The challenge of writing effectively for the solo bass clarinet in a concerto setting is of course how to balance it with the orchestra. It is very much like balancing the low male voice in an opera so that the character's personal communication can be heard in full expressivity without losing all the colours and power of the full orchestra.
Audiences also have the opportunity to hear additional music by Musgrave over the CSO weekend. On October 16th the CUBE Ensemble honours the composer at their 4th Annual CUBE Awards for New Music. The concert will feature eight of her solo, vocal, and chamber works composed over the past forty years, including Pierrot for piano, violin, and clarinet (1985); Excursions for piano four hands (1965); Take Two Oboes (2007); Canta, Canta for clarinet, cello, and piano (1997); Primavera for soprano and flute (1971); A Winter’s Morning for soprano and piano (2008); Snapshots for solo piano (2009); and Ring Out Wild Bells for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano (2000).