This is Andrew Wilson’s second concerto, following the “Three Bridges Concerto” opus 35, composed in 2002. The inspiration driving the creation of the Clarinet Concerto was the incandescent artistry of Peter Cigleris, who gives tonight’s premiere interpretation. Peter has worked with Andrew on a number of chamber works in the past and the opportunity to work on a larger scale, and with the South West Sinfonietta, was one that they both grasped eagerly.
The concerto is in three movements centred around the key of E major: this tonality encourages the use of the clarinet in A, rather than the more normal instrument in B flat. Andrew relishes the mellow and dark timbre of the fractionally larger-sized clarinet: and he is in good company- as this is the pitch of instrument used by Mozart in his Concerto and Quintet!
The first movement is a rhythmic Alla Marcia characterized by dotted rhythms and fanfare motifs. The soloist attempts to calm the mood and briefly succeeds, in two lyrical episodes in conversation with the oboe.
The second movement bears the title Notturno and the murmuring, muted strings, in a lilting five beats in a bar, give a distant accompaniment to the clarinet’s yearning love song.
The mood swings around again for the final Ballo. In this light-footed dance, the soloist and the orchestra continually sweep each other onward, with only the shortest of respites, until they all rush on to an exhilarating climax.
A Suite of Sweets Opus 115 Andrew M.Wilson 1960-
A Suite of Sweets was inspired by a particularly delicious box of chocolates I was given as a present. Having consumed the contents, by way of research, I wondered how I could translate the diversity of flavours into musical equivalents using the resources of the Canteloube Trio, who had asked me for a new work for oboe, clarinet and bassoon.
· The first movement, Lemon Parfait portrays the tingling citrus flavour mixed with sweet chocolate.
· Caramelita has a rich soft toffee melody announced first by the clarinet: the other instruments wrap it in rich chocolate harmonies.
· The third movement is a spiky picture of Hazelnut Clusters. Fragments of nutty melody poke through the closely spaced clusters of notes that accompany them.
· Giandujotti are a traditional speciality from Italy, originally sold at Carnival time in Turin but now internationally famous. They take their name from a masked character in the Commedia D'ell Arte pantomime that represents a typical peasant from the region.
· The concluding Fudge Fugue is a boisterous, contrapuntal mixture of sugar, milk, butter and vanilla whipped up together until all the flavours join together in the final bars.
The piece has been performed by several notable woodwind trios throughout the world and at one performance by the Madison Musical Collective, at Capitol Lakes Center, Madison, USA, chocolates were actually distributed to the audience to add to the atmosphere.
The City Under the Sea
This piece for the unusual combination of four trumpets (plus bass trumpet and flugel horn), was given its first performance by Bella Tromba in 2012. It is a picture of a lost world viewed through rippling salt water. The trumpets wrap contrapuntal strands of ancient fanfares around eachother in the outer sections which frame a nostalgic lament for the flugel horn. It was inspired by this poem by Walter de la Mare:
"Sunk Lyonesse" (1922)
In sea-cold Lyonesse,
When the Sabbath eve shafts down
On the roofs, walls, belfries
Of the foundered town,
The Nereids pluck their lyres
Where the green translucency beats,
And with motionless eyes at gaze/ Make ministrely in the streets.
And the ocean water stirs
In salt-worn casement and porch
Plies the blunt-nosed fish/ With fire in his skull for torch.
And the ringing wires resound;
And the unearthly lovely weep,
In lament of the music they make/ In the sullen courts of sleep:
Whose marble flowers bloom for aye:
And - lapped by the moon-guiled tide –
Mock their carver with heart of stone,
Caged in his stone-ribbed side.
By Andrew M. Wilson opus 149
The “Rock Mill Variations” are named after the a picturesque converted windmill near Chanctonbury Ring in Sussex where John Ireland spent the last decade of his life. He had known Rock Mill, by sight, for nearly thirty years and coveted it. One day in 1952 on his way to London, he noticed a board up at the end of the drive to Rock Mill; went to the agents straight away and within weeks, the Mill became his. The melody upon which the variations are based is a Christmas Carol Ireland wrote in 1913 called “The Holy Boy”. It was a favourite melody of the composer’s and he made numerous versions of it for various instruments including cello, organ, violin and piano. After a short introduction redolent of Ireland’s beloved downland countryside, there are 7 variation gradually building in intensity, all exploring echoes of episodes in the past life of the venerable windmill.. The fourth is a lively dance in five-eight time and the fifth exploits unusual tremolandi clarinet effects giving the illusion of a third player. After a cadenza for the clarinet, the work ends with a lively explosion of virtuosic writing for both the clarinet and the piano.
A Cider Press Trio Opus 155 (Flute, oboe & piano) Andrew M. Wilson 1960-
1. The Red Foxwhelp 2. Sweet Elford 3.Rondo Perpetuo: Slack My Girdle
When the West Country composer Andrew Wilson was approached with the idea of writing a newly commissioned for the Britannic Ensemble, he was very keen to write something that expressed something of the spirit of the country from which the trio takes its name and of the county of Devon where he has lived for more than twenty years: and what is more redolent of the West than cider? Every farm below Dartmoor seems to have a granite cider press tucked away somewhere in an old barn; disused now, maybe, but as indestructible as a prehistoric monolith. The ancient names of the traditional Devon cider apples resonate with music and rustic mystery in themselves, and so Andrew has taken three varieties of them to create a work inspired by their associations, taste and sound.
The Red Foxwhelp is one of the oldest surviving varieties of cider apple; it is first mentioned in John Evelyn's Advertisements Concerning Cider in his work Pomona of 1664, in which he suggests that "cider for strength is best made of the Fox-whelp, but which comes not to be drunk until two or three years old". By the early eighteenth century, it had become one of the most prized apples for cider: a hogshead of Foxwhelp cider could be sold in London for as much as eight guineas. The music reflects the fruit’s classification as a "bittersharp" cider apple, with clashing, brittle fanfares contrasted with bright passage work for all the instruments.
Sweet Elford (or Alford) is a vintage sweet cider apple which originated in Devon in the 18th century. It is a small pale yellow apple which produces sweet juice and high quality cider. The music of this movement is warm and sensuous: the instruments take turns with the long lyrical melody, which returns after a pointillist middle section.
The final movement takes its title from the curiously named Slack My Girdle apple. According to experts, its name probably means, "slack my girl" rather than "loosen my belt": possibly because it ripens late, starting in November and hanging on into the New Year. Its risqué name aside, it has a glowing, picture book apple appearance of yellow green with bright red patches. The flesh is very sweet. The music for this Rondo Perpetuo is full of the abandon of harvest time: the cider lending its strength to an orgy of musical colour in the drunken five-in-a-bar rustic dance, which becomes ever more frenetic until the revellers collapse with exhaustion.
Andrew Wilson was born in Bedfordshire in 1960 and began composing at the age of seven. After studying at Trinity College of Music, London and London University he has moved steadily West during his career, combining his composing with teaching posts in Ascot, Worcester and then in Tavistock, Devon where he has been Director of Music at Kelly College since 1992. His music is regularly performed and recorded by some of this country’s finest musicians including the Dante String Quartet and the Chamber Ensemble of London. In the past year it has been heard all over the world from Tokyo to New York. He lives in Tavistock, where his composing shed looks out over the Tavy Valley.
A Vocalise for Soprano (or clarinet) and String Quartet
The starting point for "Shellscape" is the sound of the oceans that we hear when putting a seashell up to our ears. Scientists may tell us that it is simply the "occlusion effect": our brains hearing the sounds of our bodies that in normal circumstances are filtered out, but who can forget that sense of wonder they felt, as a child, on realizing that countless complete and almost tangible worlds existed inside the shells on the beach? Concave worlds in hidden inside the whorls and shadows, strangely different from our own. The vocalise seemed an ideal way to express this haunting idea: the soprano seems to be singing a text that we can't quite make out but paradoxically we can fully comprehend: a siren luring us into her microcosm as the quartet accompanies with the eternal lap and swell of the waters. This piece was composed to mark the 10th anniversary of the Tavistock Festival Music and Arts Festival in 2013. It was specifically tailored to the particular stamp of Rosemary Turner's voice and the players of the Dante Quartet.