review

Clarinet concerto 'The Fallen' - Jeffrey Wilson: for clarinet

This review was published on: March 28th 2019
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Having been at the premiere performance (see Clarinet & Saxophone, Spring 2017) I was already aware of this work and had been looking forward to the publication of the clarinet and piano reduction. That performance was given by the work’s dedicatee, L/Cpl Natalie White and the Band of the Welsh Guards for the commemoration of 100 years of the band’s service. In researching the piece, Wilson discovered close connections to two of the regiment’s officers who had fought in the first world war. This inspired the narrative of the piece and the clarinet is a central figure throughout the work.

The three movements are ‘Conflict’, ‘The Fallen’ and ‘Resolution’, themes that are freely interpreted musically. In ‘Conflict’, the solo clarinet begins with an ascending figure based on octave leaps, while the accompaniment contrasts with marcato quavers and harsh dissonances. The melody features seventh intervals, and while the movement is marked 3/4 the accompaniment is often in 6/8. This is more evident in the second theme where the clarinet line moves much more by step. The development takes these ideas and the cadenza comes from yet more conflict between the now calm clarinet and dissonant clashes in the accompaniment.

‘The Fallen’ is the slow movement and poignantly features notes from ‘The Last Post’ in the opening and a beautiful working of ‘David of the White Rock’ later on. The final movement ‘Resolution’ is a Rondo in 6/8, brighter but with hints of the initial conflict through the sevenths in the meno mosso sections which interrupt the flow. Another long cadenza takes short ideas from the piece before the work comes to a triumphant end with all four E notes across the whole range, echoing the beginning.

Wilson set out to write a concerto for a versatile instrument and has found ways to exploit its capabilities while keeping a tonal centre. There are frequent altissimo notes within all three movements. Wilson does use the very low notes, most notably in the cadenzas, but much of the work is high, presumably to allow the clarinet to carry over the wind band accompaniment. A good command of all notes right up to A sharp an octave above the stave is needed, plus technique to travel to and from altissimo notes (legato). The piece is around 25 minutes long. Printing is clear and the piano accompaniment comes as a spiral bound volume.

Stephanie Reeve

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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at 48 Henniker Point, Leytonstone Road, London, E15 1LQ. Email: finance (@) cassgb.org. Tel: 01642 769 558

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