The Clarinet Concerto is in three movements; each explores a particular facet of the instrument and penetrates the virtuosity of the soloist. The first movement is the most complex structurally; it develops on two independent planes simultaneously. Patterson combines the forces of controlled indeterminacy in the string writing with more traditional type of musical thinking in the solo part. The result is a partnership of immense tension and conflict as the clarinet fights an extended dual with the orchestra. The string part grows from a single thread of sound and gradually accumulates and doubles like microbe in a series of complex cannons. A shifting mass of liquid glissandi and constantly merging timbres expand in compass, volume and velocity to a slow and calculated explosive climax. Meanwhile the clarinet takes time to assert its right as soloist, weaving a subdued web amidst the mid-ground of the string texture. The solo Germanic ally develops rhythmic cells and extends interval relationships from the early semitone to the diminished fifth at the climax. It becomes more aggressive as it strives to break through and dominate the orchestral texture. Only at the end does the clarinet achieve its final victory by repelling an interruption by the cello in violent and compulsive cadenza.

The second movement in contrast, explores the sustained quality and beauty of the clarinet. There are fifteen principal time sections, their values are proportioned in ratio to the intervals of the first melodic fragment and multiplied by the number of beats on each note, taking the quaver as the smallest unit. The result is that the whole movement may be seen as the macrocosm of the embryo motive. The number of units from the original note duration also governs the density and rapidity of articulation in the accompaniment. Similarly the tonal centers implied in the motive determine the area of pitch concentration in each time section. By careful manipulation of these self-imposed restrictions the melodic invention cements a structure that transcends traditional intuitive writing end predeterminate organization.

The bravura last movement again is composed on different levels employing three types of instrumental synchronization; space-time, indeterminate grouping and metrically strict. It draws upon an interaction and transformation of polyrhythmic cells and constellations of sound particles from both strings and clarinet. It his a goal-directed motion which is achieved partly by conventional motive working on one hand, and controlled indeterminate writing on the other.

© Ken Peterson



Written 1976

Solo Clarinet and String Orchestra
Length 24′

Commission: London Mozart Players
Dedication: ‘To Michael de Grey’
Publisher: Josef Weinberger

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