Programme Notes – Burlesque (2004)

Burlesque for Clarinet Choir was commissioned by the British Clarinet Association. I was originally a not very good clarinettist, and my first attempt at an opus 1 was a suite for two clarinets written when I was thirteen in 1971. I thought it might be fun to revisit this very immature work, so the strident fanfares that open Burlesque are drawn from the opening of the juvenile suite. This acts as a curtain raiser to the main body of the piece, which highlight the more grotesque characteristics of the clarinet family including an abundance of grace notes, flutter tonguing and sounds influenced by the klezmer idiom. Violent outbursts alternate with passages of more joyous lyricism. There follows a more tranquil section drawn from the opening before a brief finale takes the piece into a more flowing sound world. At the very end a melody reminiscent of a Neapolitan folk song emerges, but ominous rumblings from the contrabass clarinet sound the warning that a more grotesque world isn’t far away.

Burlesque lasts approximately ten minutes.