Blaze and Fall by Charlotte Bray for Clarinet, Viola and Piano.

This work was composed in 2017 and first performed on 27 April 2017 at St John’s Smith Square, London, by the Jacquin Trio: Jessie Grimes (clarinet), Kay Stephen (viola) and Charis Hanning (piano).

Commissioned by the Jacquin Trio with funds from The RVW Trust, Ambache Charitable Trust and Fidelio Charitable Trust.

Programme Notes

The richness and diversity found in the line of homage from Robert Schumann to György Kurtág and in turn to Marco Stroppa, renders the commission to succeed with a new work, an exciting proposition. The rich sonorities of clarinet, viola and piano in combination, and the sumptuous palette of colours they present, were inspirational. Openly embracing the limitless creativity of Schumann, the enviable precision of Kurtág and the intrepid inventiveness of Stroppa, I have sought to shape their separate offeringsinto my own voice. Taking themes inherent in the Schumann and Kurtág — night, sun, clouds, cycles, anxiety and love — to inspire the imaginary world of the piece. The most obvious influence drawn from Kurtág is structural: following his pattern of five short movements succeeded by a sixth that is far longer than the five put together, as a model for the new work; one which stands apart from others in my oeuvre. For each of the first five movements, I borrowed a ‘cell’ of material from Kurtág as a starting point: for instance a harmony or figuration.

The final movement was approached more freely, although as the base I inserted a chord structure consisting of an ascending and then descending bass line, which repeats in transposed variations throughout. This technique was influenced by Kurtág’s use of isorhythm, which he in turn borrowed from the medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut. The Fibonacci sequence, which also attracted Kurtág, plays a part in organising chords, intervals, rhythms and structures.

The title of Kurtág’s fourth movement is in Hungarian (the others are in German) and is taken from the work of poet Atilla József. The title Blaze and Fall is also from József, found in his 1933 poem Ode: ‘Stars blaze and fall but you stand still in my eyes’.

- Charlotte Bray

Performance Notes

  • The full score shows the clarinet part at written pitch. If page turns are not a problem, it may be used as a part by the clarinet and viola.
  • Grace notes in movement VI are to be performed on the beat; all others are to be performed before the beat.
  • Bowings and breath marks are suggestions only.

Duration: 10 minutes