Commissioned by the Wigmore Hall

First performance 27 January 2010; Wigmore Hall, London; Michael Collins, clarinet; London Winds; Endellion Quartet

  • 1101/1000/str(
  • Clarinet
  • 13 min

Programme Note

During a visit to the exhibition of Francis Bacon at the Tate Gallery in December 2008 my eye fell on Figure in a Landscape (1945) which resonated in me powerfully. It is a scene of devastation and despair, and also, it seemed to me, of latent anger and hostility... but above it all a serene blue sky beckons. So, perhaps even in the darkest moments there is a glimmer of hope – the possibility of change.

This idea became the starting point for this work - Towards the Blue - a mini concerto for clarinet, who eventually becomes the leader of the group.

The work starts without the clarinet and all is desolate, yet fiercely argumentative, discordant and uncomfortable. Suddenly the offstage clarinet is heard and the players in surprise are quietened. However, when the clarinet enters and approaches with a lyrical musical motive, some of the players respond, others resist. Gradually the clarinet persuades the dissident voices to join him in a spirit of co-operation and harmony.

A brief memory of the opening desolation casts a momentary shadow which is quickly dispelled by the coda which is marked Giocoso.

Thea Musgrave