MUSGRAVE (b. 1928)
Concerto for Orchestra (1967) [20:26]
Clarinet Concerto (1969) [23:38] ** Sample
Horn Concerto (1971) [22:06] *** Sample Monologue, for solo piano (1960)
[6:02] Excursions, eight duets for piano,
four hands (1965) [9:51]
Gervase de Peyer (clarinet); Barry Tuckwell
(horn); Thea Musgrave (piano); Malcolm
*Scottish National Orchestra/Alexander
**London Symphony Orchestra/Norman Del
***Scottish National Orchestra/Thea Musgrave
rec. January 1974, City Hall, Glasgow
(Concerto for Orchestra; Horn Concerto);
January 1972, London Opera Center (Clarinet
Concerto); September 1971, Kingsway Hall,
London (Monologue; Excursions).
LYRITA SRCD.253 [80.21]
a disc of Musgraves that’s packed to the rafters with her
1960s avant-gardism – let’s allow the 1971 Horn Concerto
a sympathetic embrace with the previous decade. But it’s
the Concerto for Orchestra that gets the disc off to a tensile
start. It opens in with a dream-like vista gradually assailed
by soundwash eruptions – tolling, intercessionary pizzicati,
and the monumental contempt of the brass. The clarinet bears
a strong solo role here, as it often does in Musgrave’s writing
and in its quelling of the turmoil it dons the cajoling,
quiescent conviction of an orator. This is music of purpose,
drive and character. Again and again the clarinet deflects
and defuses the quelling malevolence of other sections, notably
the brass, and its quiet courage anticipates a brilliant,
conclusive and affirmatory conclusion.
the Clarinet Concerto, written for Lyrita’s soloist Gervase
de Peyer, follows the convulsive drama of the Concerto for
Orchestra. It was written a couple of years later and sees
the soloist moving from one section of the orchestra to another.
Textures and colours are of rich complexity and the mobility
and dexterity of the ideas are tremendously exciting, as
well as being tremendously exacting as well. The stentorian
brass and terse string lines are two parts of the aural equation
because the percussive tattoos and the introverted wind lines
all add their patina to the tumult. The writing becomes searing – if
it could the music would incinerate itself – and the clarinet
is sent increasingly high to carve out its own space.
again the next concerto followed after a two-year gap. Barry
Tuckwell was the dedicatee of the Horn Concerto. There’s
a prepared piano to add its own colour here and solo opportunities
for violin and harp. The writing is powerfully dissonant
and the soloist indulges in veritable Alpine pitch bending.
The horn section, individually or collectively, echoes the
solo protagonist or comments on him. There are some very
fast jazzy runs for the horn – they put me in mind of the
faster valve trombone jazz soloists of that era – and hints
of some kind of affinity with Britten as well.
Monologue is a twelve-note piece written in 1960 for solo piano but not especially
forbidding. There are some lovely games played in the furtive Fugato
scherzevole section in particular. And finally there
is the rather delightful Excursions. These are eight
duets for piano, four hands, and they revel in games playing
and charade wit. Try the car hooting in The Drunken Driver with
its ensuing prang. Or the Misterioso Fog on the Motorway movement – delicious.
dramatic or droll, this bipartite selection – big concertos
and small piano works – has something for everyone; everyone
that is who appreciates some healthy challenges and spatial
awareness in their music.
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