This work for clarinet quintet in three movements was written following time spent in the north of Scotland, during which I visited the remote and desolate places that my family left behind when they emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand in the 19th Century. Although the music is not intended to be strictly descriptive, the image underpinning the work is that of an infinite shore that stretches from the line of steep cliffs at Badbea overlooking the North Sea, around the world to the rocky southern shores of Aotearoa New Zealand. The work draws on the tonal colour and extremes of pitch that are possible in the clarinet, and the extraordinary platform of sound of the string quartet.
Clarinet Quintet was commissioned by Christopher Marshall for his chamber music series “Christopher’s Classics” in 2006. It was written for Gretchen Dunsmore, clarinet, and The New Zealand String Quartet, for a premiere performance on September 13, 2006. The composition was also written as part of the composer’s work at The University of Otago. The point of departure in this work is Mozart, in the year of his 250th anniversary. Motivic ideas are derived from the opening melody of his Clarinet Quintet, using a magic square to transform the pitches. No direct reference is made to the Mozart theme until the third movement, which is more diatonic in character.
The first movement begins mysteriously, with a clarinet solo interspersed with rustlings from the strings. This solo contains the seeds for the entire movement, which is fast, lively and angular, following the slow introduction. A more moody and edgy middle section gradually builds up to a climax near the end of this movement. Contrasting with this is a slow middle movement that opens with a simple and bold statement on the strings. Over the top of this the clarinet plays a lamenting melody. The first four notes are a quotation from the composer’s opera The God Boy (Mrs Sullivan’s motif) signifying anxiety and guilt. A slightly calmer middle section is free in tonality, and builds up strongly in intensity, followed by an abridged return to the opening. The finale is a ‘moto perpetuo’ movement in which the diatonic opening idea is undermined by subtle tensions in the music. Although it is fast-paced and lively, it is also weary and uneasy in tone. A rousing final section leads to a quiet, fading coda, as the life in the music is gradually exhausted.
‘eye-glitter out of black air 1’ is part of a cycle of pieces written for the players of the Slovene wind quintet Slowind. To date, the cycle includes solo pieces for all of the instruments of the standard wind quintet, two wind quintets and a piece for wind quintet and orchestra.
‘eye-glitter out of black air 2’ is the second version of a wind quintet that forms part of a cycle of pieces written for the players of the Slovene wind quintet Slowind. To date, the cycle includes solo pieces for all of the instruments of the standard wind quintet, two wind quintets and a piece for wind quintet and orchestra.
The four abstracts of the title represent a kind of conceptual continuum between emotional states – Solitude, Intimacy, Distrust and Panic. Gradually developing in momentum and intensity, the movements flick between different angles and stages of human relationships, subverting expectations in building a fragile structure of unease and compulsion.
The title ‘Grauschlieren’, meaning “grey streaks”, is taken from a painting by Gerhard Richter, and this torso for clarinet quintet is an attempt to render audible some of the notions of greyness, repetition and blurring prompted by Richter’s work.