Project Description

for clarinet quartet
[4 Bb clarinets]

  • composition date: 1992-1993 | corr. 2015
  • duration: ca. 9 min. (1’30”+ 4’30” + 3’)
  • movements:
    I – Preludio
    II – Lamento
    III – Finale
  • premiere: 31 / May / 1993 | Oporto Conservatory of Music | students of the clarinet class (Luís Carvalho / Joel Gomes / Nuno Osório / Carlos Jorge)

Being a clarinettist by initial formation, my very first compositions could not be if not for the instrument I knew best. So it was in the cases of Suite in Jazz Style (1992: four Bb clarinets), the Trois Pièces d’Hommage (1993: clarinet and piano)[1] or Efémera (1994: duet clarinet/ percussion). The present Quarteto (1992-93: four Bb clarinets) belongs also in that initial creative period of mine, roughly by the time I started to have a more formal training in composition as a student of the Porto Conservatory of Music, in prof. Fernando Lapa’s class. In fact, I had already begun composing empirically still an adolescent, and these juvenilia (all equally with my instrument in mind) include several clarinet duets, a small piece for solo clarinet, a substantial sonata in duo for clarinet and bass clarinet, and even an ambitious project of a double concerto for clarinet and bass-clarinet soloists with orchestra, for which I got to complete and orchestrate the entire first movement and portions of the second, in what was to be a bold three-movements overall plan. These youth experiences already dealt, albeit naively, with the notion of dramatic tension through the use of dissonance. It was however in the Quarteto that I tried, for the first time consciously, to systematize the use of atonality as an expressive resource in the genesis of my musical discourse. At the same time, I also began to be more concerned with the formal organization of my ideas as I assimilated concepts such as exposition, development, reexposition, variation, and so on. Hence, in the present work the first movement, Prelude, assumes a cyclic structure built upon the continuous variation of two short motifs, one more rhythmic and the other more cantabile. Lamento is a free fugatto with echoes of Hindemith in the harmonic texture organized around the intervals of perfect fourths and fifths. This is also my bow to the great master of the fugue, Bach, in the contrapuntal interlacing of the various lines. Regarding the Finale, it is in a traditional ternary form (ABA’), of which the middle section [B], very contrasting, recalls the atmosphere of the second movement (quartal harmony). The final reexpository section [A’] recalls various themes from all three movements, epitomizing a summary of the work in its entirety.

This Quarteto served as the basis for the subsequent Quinteto for winds (1997-98: flute/ oboe/ clarinet/ bassoon/ horn), where the musical material was reworked and developed, searching new solutions for the creative paradox.


Luís Carvalho (2015)


[1] the Trois Pièces d’Hommage were originally conceived as three separate pieces for clarinet and harp, clarinet and guitar, and clarinet and piano, respectively; in 2000 they were revised as a tripartite suite in four versions: Alto-flute and piano / Oboe d’amore and piano / Clarinet in A and piano / Soprano-saxophone and piano.

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