• Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Clarinet Concerto (1987)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Keele Concerts Society with funds from West Midlands Arts

  • str(8.6.4.4.2)
  • clarinet
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Scored for strings and solo clarinet, the Clarinet Concerto was commissioned by Keele Concerts Society for Michael Collins and was written in the city of New York during November and December 1987.

The work is in two movements and its inspiration is three fold: virtuosity for the clarinettist combined with those fundamental elements of music, song and dance. The composer has commented: ‘I am naturally concerned with exploring the possibilities offered by the solo instrument, but more particularly I am stimulated by the idea of a dramatic confrontation inherent in a concertante work. I think of concerti more as dramas rather than simply as abstract instrumental compositions.’

The first movement is subtitled Aria and its highly charted emotional lyricism is evident from start to finish. It is cast in a sonata framework and preceded by a short, passionate orchestral introduction. The first idea, loosely in e minor, is ‘sung’ by the clarinet over a gentle, rocking accompaniment. The clarinet continues to unfold this idea through a further two statements each time revealing a little more of its identify. The second idea is again highly lyrical but this time roles are interchanged with the melody in the first violins above which the clarinet weaves an almost seamless melisma. This idea is developed three times before the introductory material returns and relaxes the emotional intensity.

The first performance was played by Michael Collins and the Orchestra da Camera, conductor Philip Jones, at Keele University on 15 February 1988.