A Week in Plasencia: for clarinet quartet

This review was published on: October 31st 2018

Mike Curtis already has a number of clarinet quartets to his name taking inspiration from all styles – classical to jazz, Latin and other world styles. A Week in Plasencia was inspired by a visit to the little-known town of the same name, east of Madrid, which followed a busy week in the latter at the 2015 Clarinet Fest. All eight movements (eight rather than seven, because both Sundays at the beginning and end of the week are included!) reflect a different location around the town. As expected, Spanish and Latin rhythms and decorations permeate the work, written for three B flats and bass clarinet. ‘Sunday, Plaza Mayor’ is for clarinet 1 and bass only, a lighthearted stroll through the town’s central square. All four players join the excursion to the aqueduct in ‘Monday, Acueducto San Antón’ – one in a bar, alternating between simple and compound feels. ‘Tuesday, Parque Ornitológica’ is lively and contains the trickiest rhythms in the form of a 9/8 bar with a 2+3+2+2 division. The next two are duets: ‘Parque de la Isal’ is for clarinet 2 and bass, while ‘Café Goya’, a potentially tricky number with a great 11/16 section, is for clarinet 3 and bass. ‘Friday, Rio Jerte’ is a cool, flowing river, with three crotchets in the melody against two crotchets in the bass. Saturday is the ‘Fiesta de Rumba’. Perhaps we could finish here, but the final ‘Sunday II, Plasencia Seprahrid’ finishes the work in the calm reflective manner that Curtis must have needed after his hectic week.

The rhythms look complicated but the feel is relaxed and straightforward as long as the pulse does not rush. Some experience with Latin rhythms would make this a little easier at first. Articulation and dynamics are carefully considered to add further colour. It is a super piece to play and should be entertaining for audiences. Individual movements are around two to three minutes each so could be played individually or tailored to suit the group performance. The whole work would probably be around 15 to 20 minutes. Suitable for Grade 6 upwards.


Stephanie Reeve

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