Clarinet Concerto

Clarinet soloist Linda Merrick is a long-time friend of the composer Philip Sparke and is married to fellow composer, Martin Ellerby. As part of a dynamic and forward-looking PhD thesis on works for clarinet and concert band, Linda has researched the existing repertoire in addition to commissioning several new concerti from leading British composers, including Martin Ellerby and Nigel Clarke.

A fascinating part of the thesis described different composersí attitudes to being asked to change details of the finished piece to make them either technically or musically more appropriate. Philip Sparke usually waits until a piece is fully finished before presenting it to anyone, but in this case Linda asked to be kept informed of the complete process of composition, including material which did not make it into the final work. Throughout the process, the composer sent sketches to the soloist, who advised on technical difficulties and suggested articulation changes.

The original concept was for a suite of short movements, each with its own character, but by the time the first movement was complete, it was clear that a conventional three-movement format was going to work out better.

The opening movement contains much syncopation and is almost rag-like in style. The slower second movement explores initially the chalumeau register of the clarinet in a theme that is later taken up by the band whilst the soloist weaves a filigree descant. This leads straight into the third movement, which is almost bee-bop in style and shows off the jazzier side of the clarinet.