On 31 December Sebastian Manz and Andrew Manze give the German premiere of Movements for a Clarinet Concerto, a 2007 realisation and orchestration by Colin Matthews of Benjamin Britten’s sketches of a work intended for Benny Goodman. They perform the work with the SWR Sinfonieorchester at Stuttgart’s Liederhalle.
The 17-minute work was first performed by Michael Collins and the Royal Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Thomas Zehetmair at The Sage, Gateshead, in 2008, later recording the work in concert, released through NMC in 2015. It has since received numerous international performances from conductors including François-Xavier Roth and Joshua Weilerstein. It has been played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Manze previously conducted the work in 2013 with the Hallé.
In 1941, while visiting New York, Britten mentioned the prospect of a commission from Benny Goodman for a clarinet concerto. By March the following year he had sketched the first movement, though on his return to England the sketches were impounded by US Customs. Matthews edited the movement for performance as a standalone piece in 1990, given by Michael Collins and the Britten-Pears Orchestra. The slow movement of the work is based on Britten’s 1941 Mazurka Elegiaca for two pianos. Th finale grew from a fragment of the Sonata for Orchestra, sketched in the same manuscript as the Clarinet Concerto, developed by Matthews into a rondo-like structure by inserting a few bars of transition, and transposing some instrumental parts.
Movements for a Clarinet Concerto is not Matthews’ only orchestration of a woodwind work by Britten: in 1993 Matthews devised a version of Britten’s Temporal Variations (1936) for oboe and string orchestra for Nicholas Daniel.
A timely reminder of Matthews’ longstanding relationship with Britten’s musical and artistic legacy comes with the 30th anniversary of the Aldeburgh Composition and Performance Course, which Matthews founded with Oliver Knussen, which he describes in a recent article for Britten-Pears Arts; a series of workshops and concerts in late November at Snape Maltings celebrated the anniversary.