Musgrave: Clarinet Concerto; The Seasons; Autumn Sonata

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COMPOSERS: Musgrave
LABELS: Cala
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto; The Seasons; Autumn Sonata
PERFORMER: Victoria Soames (clarinet, bass clarinet)BBC Scottish SO/Thea Musgrave
CATALOGUE NO: CACD 1023
Spanning 25 years of Thea Musgrave’s career as a composer, these three pieces demonstrate a consistently vivid orchestral imagination. The soloist in the Clarinet Concerto physically moves around the orchestra to confront and cajole various concertante groups of instruments (including an accordion). It swoops and flutters with dramatic energy, giving the performance a raw excitement, despite the relative austerity of the musical language. With The Seasons, twenty years on, Musgrave creates an astonishing tapestry of sound – as rich and diverse as the paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art that inspired it. The orchestration has a Straussian depth and complexity, swept along by a Romantic undercurrent that is enthralling but unpredictable. This mesmerising performance conjures up a whirlwind of sound, ranging from simple cuckoo noises to a collage of the French and American national anthems, without once losing its grip.

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Autumn Sonata, a concerto written in 1993 for bass clarinet and orchestra, is a darker work. Not surprising, given the sombre tone of the instrument, but even less so given that Musgrave wrote the piece while haunted by the menacing poetry of Austrian Georg Trakl. The composer’s own comment, that it alternates ‘between a dream and a nightmare’, is apt. Christopher Lambton