Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Melencolia I

Sir Harrison Birtwistle Melencolia I
Melencolia I

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Melencolia I

Year of composition:
1976
Scored for:
for clarinet, harp and 2 string orchestras
Composer:
Sir Harrison Birtwistle
Soloists:
clarinet in A
Instrumentation:
hp, str.orch 1(15 0 6 6 4), str.orch 2(15 0 6 6 4)
Instrumentation details:
harp
string orchestra 1: violin (15)
viola (6)
violoncello (6)
contrabass (4)
string orchestra 2: violin (15)
viola (6)
violoncello (6)
contrabass (4)
Commission:
Commissioned for Musica Nova 1976 by the Scottish National Orchestra Society
Remarks:
"Melencolia I" by Albrecht Dürer
Duration:
24’
Dedication:
Dedicated to the memory of Tony Wright (of Universal Edition)
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Audiosamples

Melencolia I
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Work introduction

The title refers to Dürer’s eponymous engraving; Birtwistle’s music is introverted, indeed melancholy, using the most frugal of resources. The tempo is consistently slow; in the first part, the clarinet sings a mournful melody or advances in small steps, accompanied by brief accents from the harp (which Birtwistle seems to treat like a percussion instrument at times), shrouded by the two string orchestras.

The clarinet becomes more active in the second part, its leaps large, almost hysterical, amongst the menacing sounds from the string orchestras; their two, extremely short outbursts have the effect of earthquakes. The clarinet’s only rapid passage occurs in the work’s cadenza, before harp chords bring the piece to its close.

Special prints

Melencolia I

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Melencolia I

study score
for clarinet, harp and 2 string orchestras , 24’
Instr.: hp, str.orch 1(15 0 6 6 4), str.orch 2(15 0 6 6 4)

World première

Location:
Glasgow
Date:
18.09.1976
Orchestra:
Scottish National Orchestra
Conductor:
Gibson Alexander

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