• Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Clarinet Quintet (1992)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Warwick Arts Society and GPT for the Warwick Festival

  • cl.str4tet

Programme Note

Written for the Warwick Festival in 1992, the Clarinet Quintet opens with a lyrical statement by the clarinet, juxtaposed by an underlying, somewhat tense, comment from the quartet. The clarinet soon joins the strings in this vein, often trading lines back and forth. This exacting movement requires a sharpened rhythmic sense from all the players, in order to clarify the thick, moving lines and opposing metrical groupings. The ending of the first movement is one of the most beautiful moments in the work, with the solo clarinet stating the theme one final mesmerizing time, accompanied by lush strings.
The Presto offers a hint of Hindemithian style (as does the first movement), and is extremely demanding on the clarinet, calling for virtuosity in the extreme high register of the instrument. The movement alternates between strong, march-like statements and typical Bennett lyricism. The Romanza is an ideal example of Bennett’s combination of serial and Neo-Romantic influences. The movement opens with a 12-tone based theme darkly stated by the clarinet and is a study in colour and texture, moving on and out of starkness and luxuriance. Extravagant solo lines played by the clarinet evoke thought of Debussy’s Rhapsody for Clarinet.
The final movement is based on a jazzy motif that once again is critical in its execution - the rhythmic movement and sense of time must be impeccable in order to create the momentum needed for seamless transitions in and out of the expanded lyrical sections. He piece ends with a dynamic, driving molto animato, performed by all players in unison.