Classical: The sounds of Streatham
Diana Burrell premiere Barbican Hall, London
Wednesday 17 December 1997
If only all London premieres were as well prepared as that of Diana Burrell's Clarinet Concerto last Thursday. Since the official premiere in Hexham last year, clarinettist Robert Plane and the North Sinfonia have played it in three concerts - plenty of time for the details to settle, and for a sense of the total musical organism to take shape in each player's mind. It certainly sounded confident: expression was warmly felt and the three sections (or are they movements?) followed one another purposefully.
But then, this is a remarkably confident and clear work. Melodic lines and motifs are sharp, distinctive and often very memorable - like the wheeling brass fanfare figures in the fast first section. Harmonies aren't quite tonal in the conventional sense, but often give the impression of being similarly "grounded". Climaxes happen in the right places - expected, yet somehow surprising at the same time. The ending feels like a real end.
So much for the intellectual substance. Imaginatively, the concerto is just as remarkable. The scoring includes such exotica as roto-toms and sanctus bells, and specifies three sets of "multiphonics" (weirdly guttural harmonics) for the clarinet. But Burrell's use of them is not at all gimmicky. Mostly she relies on the colours of a classical Beethovenian orchestra to create her vivid colours and spacious landscapes. The multiphonics appear just three times, in what one could call the slow movement, at the height of three bizarre crescendos. The members of the orchestra play as if improvising to themselves. The texture thickens and loudens, culminating in the clarinet's sustained gurgling squawks. A vast congregation of birds singing, grunting, whistling together? According to Burrell, it was the sound of cars, people walking and talking, transistor radios heard from a motionless train on an embankment in Streatham, that set her imagination working. Whatever, it's fascinatingly effective and it yields wonderfully to the next section: spiky clarinet, bright trumpets and shimmering sanctus bells. It all adds up to an intriguing and ultimately very likeable work.
Life & Style blogs
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
- 1 Christmas comes early to Hong Kong, as millions of bank notes spill out onto busy street
- 2 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public can visit police’s grisly crime museum
- 3 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 4 Vagina canoe artist facing two years in jail defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
- 5 The Queen’s speech 2014: Recap and Twitter reaction to Game of Thrones reference
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...
£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...