23 January 2016

Arvydas Malcys: Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra

After two of some wonderful Estonians, I think its time to return to a Lithuanian gem I have developed quite a fondness of since uncovering his music. Arvydas Malcys (1957*) is a rather curious composer as he doesn't fall into any camps of composers that can be found here in Lithuania or throughout Europe. His willingness to tackle classic forms and structures like concerto is intriguing as it is truly adhering to the nature of a concerto but never feeling conservative. Also musically there is a strong affinity to composers like Bartok or Honnegger who used modernist 'techniques' as an extension of what has come before and not a rejection of it.

A student of Vytautas Laurusas, Arvydas Malcys studied composition alongside his studies of the cello (under Domas Svirskis). His music has won multiple awards and is full of a huge amount of colour and character, it is a real shame British orchestras haven't heard of him. I imagine Malcsys's work would be extremely well received by the paying public.

The concerto for clarinet and chamber orchestra was written in 2007 and dedicated to the late Algirdas Doveika who was the principal clarinettist of the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra. The concerto was written for Roger Arve Vigulf, a Norwegian clarinettist Arvydas had worked for around three years previous to this concerto. The work is in three movements which a calm declamatory cadenza, before flying off into a pulsating driving sphere. The first movement is short, but never loses its energy, constantly pushing the piece along with a great vibrancy. The simple nature of the first movement is made more elegant by the introduction and expansion of the material throughout the chamber orchestra. The energy is a stark contrast the to beautiful melodic material in the soloist, who floats seamlessly above the ensemble.But as the piece progresses the energy in the orchestra turns to staggering tremolandi and the clarinet flies over the chaos.

The second movement is drastically different and potently beautiful. Much like in the solo clarinet movement of Messiaen's Quatour pour la fin de temps, the movement starts with a sparse clarinet melody leaping beautifully over wide intervals and disappearing into nothingness. The entrance of the strings reiterate the opening of the first movement and give the middle movement a larger depth and broader colouring. The reiterating Es from the clarinet morph into powerful multiphonics stretched against the dense clusters in the strings, before flying off into an allegro passage. The section is a bit more frantic with the aleatoric elements blurring any sensation of pulse and rhythmic direction. Suddenly the frantic energy busts into an almost comical bouncing triplet section which canonically repeats gestures from the clarinet, before it fades away into a peaceful mournful calm.

The final movement is full of cheeky gestures and energy. A fantastical scherzo which really lets the soloist let loose and show off their prowess. The clumsy pulsations from the strings add a sense of comedy in the opening bars of the movement. Then this clumsy cheeky side disappears with a gesturing of tiny fragments flying around the group. The tiny gesture grows and expands and gives the sensation of clockwork as everything ticks along growing and growing. This ticking becomes a bit more maniacal before dissipating into a whole new section with screaming glissandi from the soloist. This leads onto an area with lots of drive, being pushed by flying scales which disappearing and morph into flickering gestures which fade and eventually disappear with the final Gershwin-esque gliss.

The work can be heard here on spotify. It is a fun work and a great show piece for clarinettists the world over. I'd be curious to see how other soloists would shape this kind of piece, as there is so much room for a soloist to add their own personal input.

Anyways until next week, where I might either discuss Bacevicius or Lithuanian music on the whole, looking at where it is in comparison to a generation ago. Until then!

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