Photo: Christian Steiner


 Thea Musgrave


Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra
Duration: 24'
Clarinet; 2+afl.2+ca.1(bcl).2+cbn/4331/timp.perc/
Commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society

World Premiere:  5 February 1969, Royal Festival Hall, London
Gervase de Peyer, clarinet
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor

U.S. Premiere:  1971
Michele Zukowsky, clarinet
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Gerhard Samuel, conductor

Publisher:  Chester Music Ltd

Critical Acclaim:

In the Clarinet Concerto the soloist himself traverses the whole orchestra...organizing concertante groups or cells, starting up disruptive movements which, however, do not subvert but enrich the fabric of the music's composition. This device is at once theatrical and strictly and practically musical and it symbolizes the diversity and panache of Thea Musgrave's invention. The music seethes with a kind of revolutionary vitality harnessed for the greater strength of the work as a whole.
— David Cairns, New Statesman

It is a work of fabulous sonorities, vivid tensions and brooding drama. It is also a dazzler for the clarinettist....the work is a stunner and should not be allowed to fade away — it demands insertion in the regular concert repertoire.
— Thor Eckert.Jr., Christian Science Monitor

Composer's Note:

The Clarinet Concerto is one of a series of works exploring "dramatic-abstract" ideas: that is, dramatic in presentation, but abstract because there is no programme or story. In this work, the dramatic idea is simple: the struggle, or conflict in the sense of balancing unequal forces: that is, solo versus tutti, or individual versus crowd.

The solo, or individual here, is of course the virtuoso solo clarinet, who has an unusual function in that he moves around the orchestra to lead various smaller 'concertante' groups. Though this idea was motivated by purely musical and practical reasons in order to allow the soloist to play and lead the other concertante players quite independently of the conductor, visually this results in a certain theatrical quality not out of keeping with the inherent dramatic meaning of a concerto. The work is in one continuous movement and is in essence a concerto grosso; that is, a recurring tutti section interleaved with various contrasting episodes of differing concertinos led by the solo clarinet. In one of these episodes an accordion is featured — an unusual addition to the normal symphony orchestra.


Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Thea Musgrave, conductor
Victoria Soames Samek, clarinet
Cala CACD 1023
London Symphony Orchestra
Norman del Mar, conductor
Gervase de Peyer, clarinet
Lyrita SRCD 253 - See CD Review

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