Clarinet Concerto (2004)
for Solo Clarinet and String Orchestra
Duration: 14 min.
Dedication: for Angela Occhionero
Commission: Commissioned by Harrison Nelson
Publisher: Lauren Keiser Music Publishing
Performance materials available from the publisher.
Clarinet Concerto (2004) for solo clarinet and string orchestra was commissioned by Harrison Nelson and is dedicated to Angela Occhionero.
The work is in two movements and draws on themes from William Walker’s seminal hymnal, The Southern Harmony (1835). The Southern Harmony themes are contrasted with a motive consisting of the pitches F-Db-Eb-G which recurs throughout the work in many forms. The unusual and odd nature of Southern Harmony tunes and their harmonizations provided the inspiration and springboard for the conception of this work. The tunes and their harmonizations have a raw and “American” characteristic (as distinct from traditional European part-writing rules) which gives them a unique and characteristic quality.
The first movement uses the tune SUPPLICATION from The Southern Harmony. It is first heard in the opening of the movement, presented in an ornamented form by the clarinet over a background in the strings. The ornamentation is derived from the F-Db-Eb-G motive. After this presentation, transformations of the tune are developed in combination with the F-Db-Eb-G motive leading to the centerpiece of the movement. The hymn is presented in the strings while the clarinet soars above, moving at its own seemingly independent pace with motives, melodies, and figurations all derived from the movement’s principal materials but often in its own harmonic landscape. On the second “verse” of the tune, the strings gradually begin to fall out of phase (like individuals each singing the hymn to themselves, each at his/her own pace). The movement concludes in the spirit of its opening.
The second movement uses the tune JUBILEE from The Southern Harmony. The movement opens with a bit of “fiddle music” using a highly transformed of the hymn tune theme. The tune itself is alluded to in various figurations throughout this section. The “fiddle music” winds down once and then starts right back up again. It dies down again which leads to a full presentation of the hymn tune by the strings. The tune is then heard in a joyful canon with the clarinet presenting its own commentary. The hymn material and fiddle music combine very briefly before leading to ending—a whoop of ecstatic joy.