The inspiration for the ‘Soliloquy and Toccata’ (Two Pieces for Clarinet and Strings) came about because of a desire to write a piece of music that would allow the clarinet to demonstrate its many different qualities as a solo instrument in its own right.
In the first of these two, linked pieces ‘cellos and violins introduce the main thematic ideas. The key is F minor which possesses a dark, brooding quality all its own. A wistful falling motif works its way down through the strings before being picked up by the cellos. Quietly, the clarinet enters with one long, sustained note as the strings reiterate the theme of the opening. The clarinet begins to elaborate on the opening ideas, working both with and against the strings, alternately pleading and demanding, before leading the music away from the opening key with a series of complex rhythmic and tonal shifts that finally resolve into a quiet G major chord.
My other musical passion is for baroque music, especially Bach. As a solo performer I would sometimes play one of my own transcriptions of music from this period, for example the wonderful Bach concerto for Oboe and Violin. As a composer the linear, contrapuntal style of my writing reflects the spirit of the baroque period .
I believe that every composer has a favourite instrument, one they really enjoy writing for, and the clarinet is, most definitely, mine. I first encountered this beautiful instrument at school where I fell in love with its agility and incredible variety of tonal registers. There is a reedy throatiness to the lower (chalumeau) register, the middle register possesses a sweetness almost akin to the human voice whilst the upper notes can sound like the plaintive cry of a seagull. My enthusiasm for the clarinet continued into adult life where, as a professional musician, I played in orchestras, wind bands, small ensembles and, occasionally as a soloist.
With a declamatory call to attention the soloist throws us headlong into the Toccata. Firmly in the key of C minor this movement contains some thematic ideas from the Soliloquy. The writing here is contrapuntal and fast-moving with soloist and strings picking up and developing thematic ideas that are quickly passed backwards and forwards. A dramatic rush from violins and violas leads to a decisive final statement from the clarinet before the piece ends on a strong, unison C from all the participants.