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ClassicsOnline Home » Chamber Music (Clarinet Quintets) - ROXBURGH, E. / TURNBULL, K. / CLARKE, N. / ELLERBY, M. (British Clarinet Quintets) (Merrick, Navarra Quartet)
British Clarinet Quintets
Edwin Roxburgh (b. 1937): Quintet for Clarinet and Strings
Eschewing reliance on ‘programmatic’ inspiration, Roxburgh has conceived this piece as a ‘musical mosaic’ featuring distinctive qualities of the performers. Each section of the piece explores the range of colours and nuance characteristic of Linda Merrick’s playing, and the ‘virtuosic artistry’ of the Navarra Quartet is reflected in their integration into the ensemble, avoiding a purely accompanying rôle.
The six sections of the piece are characterized respectively by cascading figurations, sustained melodic counterpoint, a passionate episode for strings, a ‘textural mélange’, a percussive scherzo, and a coda using the opening figurations.
Of writing this piece Roxburgh comments: ‘In spite of my fear at having to compete with Mozart’s supremacy in composing for the clarinet, the instrument
has occupied a significant place in my output, including a concerto for Gervase de Peyer (recorded by Linda Merrick on NMC D119), Wordsworth Miniatures for solo clarinet (commissioned and recorded by Linda Merrick), Dithyramb 1 for clarinet and percussion…and a quartet for clarinets, Heliochrome. This indicates how very important Linda Merrick’s involvement has been in my music for the instrument’.
The work of Edwin Roxburgh, distinguished composer, conductor, oboist and teacher, has been acknowledged in awards too numerous to catalogue, but including, most recently, a British Composers’ Award for his Elegy for Ur and an Elgar Trust Award for a BBC commission. His recent opera, Abelard was published by United Music Publishers supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship.
Kit Turnbull (b. 1969): Three Cautionary Tales
Each movement of the Three Cautionary Tales evokes a story from folklore used to illustrate perceived dangers, hence the title.
Carbrooke Dancers, with its irregular dance rhythms, is inspired by the medieval legend of young girls turned to stone after dancing to the music of a strange fiddler in a churchyard. Priests used the legend to warn against merry-making on Sundays and Christian festivals.
The modal colouring and spaciousness of The Mermaid’s Pool evoke the legend of drowned young women who lured passers-by into sharing their fate through their hypnotic songs. Mothers used the story to warn children of the dangers of water.
The virtuosic finale, Lantern Man, with its busy textures depicts the flickering lights that can appear in marshes through combustion of gases. Characters with names like Jack-o’-Lantern, Kit-with-the-Canstick, and Will-o’-the-Wisp were said to lead people into the marshes, often to their deaths, a story designed to deter night-time wanderers.
Kit Turnbull began his musical career as a keyboard player in a rock band before joining Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Service in 1991. From 1997 he studied composition with Martin Ellerby at the London College of Music where he subsequently became a Course Leader and Composition Tutor. A recipient of the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1998, he has since completed numerous commissions that have been performed all over the world. His TV and film credits include the music for Blackadder Back and Forth.
Nigel Clarke (b. 1960): Equiano
Equiano is inspired by the life story of Nigerian-born Olaudah Equiano (1745–97), who at the age of eleven was kidnapped and sold to slave traders. Transported to Virginia, he was subsequently bought by a British naval officer and taken to London where his master renamed him Gustavus Vassa. He bought his freedom in 1833, and became an important member of the abolitionist movement alongside Clarkson and Wilberforce. His story, documented in his book The Interesting Narrative, increased public awareness of the inhumanity of enslavement. Conceived in a single movement, the piece is episodic in structure, with the clarinet representing the character of Equiano and the strings frequently evoking the inhumanity of humanity. The periodic use of antique cymbals and chain is a constant reminder of Equiano’s slavery. As the piece builds to its frenetic final moments, the clarinet seems to grow in confidence, and to at least match, if not outdo, the strings.
The compositional originality of Nigel Clarke was recognised early in his being awarded the prestigious Queen’s Commendation for Excellence whilst a student at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM). Appointments have been numerous, and include Associate Composer to the Black Dyke Mills Band, Associate Composer to the Young Concert Artist Trust and Associate Composer to the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall. As a composition teacher he has held prestigious posts at the RAM, London College of Music, and a visiting lectureship at the Royal Northern College of Music. In 2008 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts by Salford University.
Martin Ellerby (b. 1957): Epitaph VII: Memento (Terezin)
The seventh in a series of pieces reflecting atrocities associated with events related to World War II, Memento takes as its subject the Nazi concentration camp located at Terezin in the former Czechoslovakia. Nine brief movements form a dramatic scena of varied moods. Individual movement titles are taken from a selection of pictures and poems created by the young inmates of the camp. All these, and more, can be found in the widely-available published collection entitled ‘…I never saw another butterfly…’. Some 15,000 children passed through Terezin between 1942 and 1944, of whom fewer than a hundred survived. The clarinet plays the part of an innocent butterfly able freely to roam around the camp, and to witness different events and experiences. The work is in the form of an arch, beginning with an eerie depiction of the town featuring string harmonics. The central movement, The Butterfly, is openly romantic, and the whole piece leads to the final, optimistic movement which uses fragments from Dvořák’s Songs my Mother taught me.
Martin Ellerby studied with Joseph Horovitz at the Royal College of Music in London and then privately with Wilfred Josephs. He has written in most genres and his output includes four symphonies and eleven concertos. He combines his compositional career with work in education including the post of Visiting Professor of Music to the RAF Music Services. He was awarded a doctorate by the University of Salford in 2006.
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