THEA MUSGRAVE (b.1928): Concerto for Orchestra (Scottish National Orchestra; Alexander Gibson. 1974 LP release), Clarinet Concerto (Gervase de Peyer [clarinet], London Symphony Orchestra; Norman Del Mar. 1972 LP release), Horn Concerto (Barry Tuckwell [horn], SNO; Thea Musgrave. 1974 LP release), Monologue for Solo Piano (Thea Musgrave [piano]), Excursions for Piano Four Hands (Musgrave, Malcolm Williamson [piano duet]. 1971 releases).
Catalogue Number: 10J063
Description: In her concertante works, Musgrave commonly achieves a quasi-narrative element, although no specific programme is present. All three concerti share this dramatic nature, which overflows into the overtly theatrical, especially in live performance when performers are called upon to move around the stage or out into the performance space. These spatial effects lend themselves naturally to skillful recording production, of course. The clarinet concerto pits the solo protagonist against a large and boldly employed orchestra; the soloist actually moves around the orchestra, leading various concertante groups in the course of the work, providing great variety of textures and an obvious dramatic structure. The horn concerto also uses sections of the orchestra as 'characters' in an unwritten drama; here the rebellious brass section behaves like the side drum in Nielsen 5; meanwhile the horn soloist is flanked by doppelgangers in the form of the orchestral horns, who move around the auditorium, leading to some wonderfully disorienting spatial effects. The Concerto for Orchestra also features a rebellion, of a concertante group that grows and becomes more insistent in its conflict with the tutti group. In all cases, the contrast between monolithic orchestral texture and scintillating solo writing is invigorating and exciting; the composer's vocabulary, which definitely references tonality but does not eschew sub-semitone intervals and even a degree of aleatory is satisfyingly complex without ever becoming inaccessible.