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ON VELVET MOSS ...
Five short pieces for clarinet and piano in pastoral style, freely based on poems unified by water imagery.
- Dedham Vale
- The Royal Festival Hall
- Newlands Beck
This was transcribed in 2008 from Moments, a set of five songs dating from 1977, setting poems by John Barber which celebrate significant moments (and places in England and France) at the start of a relationship.
The transcription embellishes the vocal lines and exploits the wide range of the clarinet. The five pieces are pastoral in style, as the poems are unified by water imagery.
The title, On Velvet Moss, is a line from the fourth poem: ‘On velvet moss, beside the swashing stream, we sprawl languidly, limbs loose from the climb’ – but it might also suggest the ‘velvety’ sound of the clarinet’s lower register, which is used at some point in each of the movements.
The set is constructed in the form of an arch with the climactic central movement initially evoking the atmosphere of a pseudo-Romantic orchestral concert.
The piano accompaniment uses arpeggiated figures to suggest flowing water and the set is unified further with a persistent motif of a falling fifth within the overall interval of a minor sixth. This first occurs in the clarinet’s second phrase of Dedham Vale, but recurs in each song, primarily in the accompaniment and predominantly in the bravura piano writing immediately before the soloist’s entry in the central piece.