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I dedicate this recording to the genius and generosity of Dame Thea King (1925-2007), the
doyenne of the clarinet, to whom I am indebted in so many ways.
When I left the conservatory in 1994, I lacked direction and had no idea what to become.
It was Thea King who encouraged me to persevere as a clarinettist, and who generously
gave me a number of invaluable master classes in her London cottage. These tutorials were
marvels of insight and intensity: they would go on for hours, and were invariably terminated
by Thea’s gentle announcement that she “had to practice”.
A more concrete emanation of Thea King’s legacy to me is the Clarinet Concerto by Gerald
Finzi, composed in 1948 for Thea’s teacher and husband Frederick “Jack” Thurston. Thea
passionately championed this work, and she must have sensed my love for it: one day I got
a package in the mail containing the letters Finzi had written to Thurston between 1948 and
1953. They offer a first-hand account of the genesis of the concerto, featuring many pleasant
exchanges (such as Finzi’s enquiry whether a certain note would not be too high for the
clarinet and Thurston’s reassurance that the orchestra is so busy at that very spot that is in
any case inaudible).
Through Thea, and through Jack, I am a privileged performer of the Finzi concerto. I can
think of no better tribute to Dame Thea (and to Thurston, Finzi, and Britain) than acquainting
a larger audience with this extraordinary music.
© David Crookes
MOZART, BRUCH, FINZI: quintet, and his last instrumental
CLARINET(TIST) CONCERTOS composition, the Clarinet Concerto in A.
Playing this concerto therefore automatically
More than any other instrument, the clarinet entails paying homage to Anton Stadler
appears to be a medium for personal (1753-1812), the foremost clarinet virtuoso
dedication. Alternatively, and somewhat less of Mozart’s days. The first documented
graciously: composers needed a good reason connection between Stadler and Mozart
to write for it. As a consequence, most of the immediately reveals Stadler’s popstar appeal:
famous clarinet works are inextricably linked
to the virtuosi for whom they were designed, “Have my thanks, brave virtuoso! What you
and sometimes master clarinettists even do with your instrument I have never heard.
changed the course of musical careers. A case Never would I have thought that a clarinet
in point is Johannes Brahms, who had decided would be able to imitate the human voice as
to stop composing in 1890, but reconsidered remarkably as you imitate it. Your instrument
his retirement plans when he heard clarinettist has so soft and lovely a tone that nobody who
Richard Mühlfeld of the Meiningen orchestra has a heart can resist it, and I have one, dear
play. Brahms was so overwhelmed that Virtuoso; let me thank you!” (J. F. von Schink,
he immediately wrote a clarinet trio and Literarische Fragmente, 1785)
quintet for Mühlfeld, and dedicated his last
instrumental compositions, the two Clarinet The Clarinet Concerto K. 622 was the last
Sonatas op. 120, to him. Brahms, however, piece of instrumental music to be finished
never wrote a clarinet concerto. by Mozart, though this fact should not be
overdramatized: unlike Brahms, Mozart was
Exactly a century before, Mozart too had not planning on retiring, let alone that he had
been so awe-struck by a clarinettist that anticipated his demise. Milos Forman’s epic
he consecrated a number of timeless movie Amadeus has instilled in us the idea
masterpieces to him, including a clarinet that Mozart’s death was a foreseeable event
which necessitated the speedy completion For this recording, clarinet solo Roeland
of a number of works. In actual fact, the Hendrikx was faced with the difficult
cited occasions for the Clarinet Concerto choice between the basset clarinet and the
were disappointingly mundane. It has been A-clarinet: “the standard A-clarinet has
suggested that Stadler commissioned the continued to develop for over 200 years. As
concerto – but “forgot” to pay Mozart for it –, a result, it approximates perfection as far as
but also that Mozart had heard of Franz Xaver its intonation and homogeneity is concerned.
Süssmayr’s intention to write a concerto for I use the “Recital” A-clarinet by the French
Stadler, and refused to be outdone by a pupil woodwind builder Henri Selmer, a somewhat
he bore no great respect for. heavier instrument developed in the 1980s,
which has never become very popular on
In its earliest guise, the later Clarinet account of its weight. Still, I prefer it as I get
Concerto was not even conceived for the so much comfort and beauty from it. The
clarinet: its first 199 bars are almost identical modern basset clarinet, by contrast, has
to an abandoned concerto which Mozart stopped developing for more than a century:
had incepted in 1787 for Stadler’s other pet because there is almost no repertoire for it,
instrument, the basset horn (a larger and instrument builders have invested little effort
lower member of the clarinet family). Neither in correcting its awkward notes. Although
was the finished concerto as we know it I possess a basset clarinet, I asked myself
intended for the standard A-clarinet, but for the question: does the availability of the
an instrument with a slightly extended lower four extra semitones really outweigh the
range, probably the basset clarinet which was opportunity to play a truly beautiful Mozart
invented at the time and also championed Adagio? I hate to swap three or four “correct”
by Stadler. In the absence of an autograph, notes for 30 + uncomfortably nasal ones
modern performers rely on the first edition in the mid register. I have a great respect
(by André in 1801) which was transposed for for historical correctness, but I believe that
A-clarinet. Mozart would have been delighted with my
A-clarinet. In his days, the clarinet sounded would call “unbearably light”: it opens up
closer to the etymological origin of its name a realm of unparalleled sweetness, though
– the “clarino”, a type of trumpet – and it had overtones of nostalgia make it easy for
to be loud and shrill. It now has become a us to imagine the dark end of the scale of
“cantabile” instrument to sing on, and that which Mozart predominantly paints the
is how I approach it. Note that this ability to positive pole. This wistfulness is more than a
sing beautifully on the clarinet is exactly what virtual thing: the movement’s fragility is too
Stadler’s contemporaries appreciated in his excruciating at some times to consume at
playing.” face value.

Beauty, nobility and cheerfulness are the Is it for this agonizing fragility or just the
key characteristics of Mozart’s Clarinet sheer beauty of its melody that the Adagio
Concerto, but they are not its only features. is so often included on compilations called
The concerto’s opening Allegro immediately “Romantic classics”? The ambiguity of the
establishes its gentle but also melancholy concept “Romantic” is reflected in the Oxford
nature. Mozart’s well-known grace and Dictionary’s distinction between the modern
charm are in obvious evidence, but they are definitions “ready demonstration of love”
constrained by recurrent bouts of discomfort, and “an idealized view of reality”, and the
and the occasional but unmistakable historical denotation “the artistic and literary
suggestion of much more autumnal emotions movement of Romanticism”. While the
only superficially veiled by cheerfulness. modern definitions account for the Adagio’s
The concluding Rondo is conspicuously less understandable popularity on classical fast
ambiguous than the previous movements, but food anthologies, the Concerto’s inception
it maintains the concerto’s essential balance date (1791) is too early to fit the cultural-
between high spirits and emotional restraint. historical delimitation of Romanticism:
Mozart is generally periodized as “Viennese
The central Adagio is what Milan Kundera classicism”.
Around 1800, however, there was a strong published score. The recommendation that
awareness that the times they were the opening Allegro is “splendidly crafted
a-changing. While the term “Romantic” and contains almost all of those phrases and
still referred negatively to the “wild” and coloraturas with which the skilful clarinettist
“fanciful” in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary can shine outstandingly” is unsurprising in
of the English Language (1775), it was a review of this kind. The assertion that “the
increasingly used positively around emotional man will find in the Adagio all
1800, to upgrade music which conveyed he needs to communicate and awaken the
pure emotion. As early as 1810, E.T.A. deepest feeling (“innigste Rührung”)” is a
Hoffmann defined the principles of musical sign of a markedly changing time. Mozart
Romanticism in an essay in which he may not be a quintessential Romantic by
defended Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart as any musicological standard, but it is evident
“masters of instrumental compositions (…) that his music was helping to reset the
who breathe an identical romantic spirit”. balance between head and heart, and that
According to Hoffmann, Mozart’s music contemporary observers were acutely aware
“leads us into the depths of the spiritual of this recalibration (and Mozart’s role in it).
world”, with elements of fear, love, and
sorrow, “a foreboding of the infinite ... in the If contemporary evaluation is a safer criterion,
eternal dance of the spheres”. therefore, to pinpoint the emergence and
death of musical eras, the reception of Max
Hoffmann does not refer to Mozart’s Clarinet Bruch’s Double Concerto in E minor for
Concerto, but there are other contemporary Clarinet and Viola shows that Romanticism
testimonials in which its unusual was on its last legs in 1912. That is, if we go by
emotionality is acknowledged. In the earliest the judgment of the Allgemeine Musikzeitung
extant review in the Allgemeine Musikalische (No. 50, 1913), which deemed the work
Zeitung of March 1802, an anonymous “harmless, weak, unexciting, first and
reviewer is in raptures after reading the foremost too restrained”, because “its effect
is unoriginal and it shows no masterstrokes”. In an interview of 1911, he correctly predicted
that Brahms’s fame would continue to grow
This harsh rejection comes from the clash while his would dwindle: “Fifty years from
between the concerto’s nostalgic beauty now Brahms will have survived as one of the
and the changing taste of an audience which supreme composers of all time, while I will
had grown accustomed to more audacious be remembered for having written the first
harmonies and modernist experiments. violin concerto”. This pessimism was partly
Only two years later, Stravinsky’s Sacre du unwarranted, as both the first Violin Concerto
Printemps would detonate Parisian concert and the intensely moving Kol Nidrei for cello
life, and draw the final curtain over the and orchestra live on as public and critical
Romantic era. It is strange that a composer favourites.
whose long life spanned most of this era
– Bruch was born when Mendelssohn had Bruch took to the clarinet late in life, and
yet to write his oratorio Elijah, and he died like Mozart and Brahms, he was inspired by
a decade after Mahler’s radical symphonic a gifted virtuoso. His son Max Felix had just
revolution – was so conservatively loyal to the started his career as a professional performer,
aesthetics of the mid-19th century: Bruch’s and his clarinet playing was often compared
style changed little between his seminal to that of Brahms’ choice prodigy, Richard
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1866) and his late Mühlfeld. While the Double Concerto’s
work. Bruch, moreover, lived in the shadow unusual tenderness plausibly indexes Bruch’s
of, and was completely dwarfed by Brahms, love for his progeny, the music also oozes
at least in his own mind: he unreservedly nostalgia for a bygone age.
but sometimes also undeservedly credited
Brahms for an independence of thought and Bruch constrains the concerto’s drama
an inclination to take harmonic risks without to a very small dynamic bandwidth, and
ever having to worry about public or critical he carefully avoids broad gestures and
reaction. Bruch himself worried all the time. contrasts: the music builds on the similarities
between the two solo instruments, whose For Hendrikx, the Double Concerto has
ranges and colour idiom are virtually always been a favourite: “I love to serve
identical. In the opening Andante con moto, repertoire which is not widely known: every
the viola launches the discourse with a short music lover is familiar with Bruch’s first Violin
rhapsodic melody which is subsequently Concerto, but the Double Concerto has
reiterated by the clarinet, before the two virtually been forgotten, although it has often
instruments intertwine. But then the clarinet been claimed to outshine the Violin Concerto.
takes up the movement’s principal theme, a Bruch is known to have been irritated by
delightful autumnal melody of unadulterated people who came to him for the Violin
in-our-face nostalgia. The soloists trade Concerto because “he had written so many
phrases of this theme and conclude the good, if not superior things afterwards”.
movement in tiny duets; the underlying Like the Mozart concerto, I love this piece
sonata form is steeped in harmonic and for its cantabile qualities and its fling with
metrical gestures which are so broad that kitsch: I can almost sing this autumnal gem
the music sounds much more melancholic on my instrument. The Bruch concerto is not
than it reads. In spite of its Allegro moderato- a piece which requires deep understanding:
marking, the second movement sounds no it just takes unrestrained emotion and
less nostalgic than the first, if only because unpremeditated intuition. Conductor Martyn
of Bruch’s reliance on longer-held notes. Brabbins and I did not engage in any long
The writing is opulently lyrical, and the pre-recording conferences: Martyn simply
accompaniment so unanimated and invariant recommended to “dive in, and see what
at times that it seems written for film. The comes out”.”
concluding Allegro molto is more vigorous
on account of its Wagnerian brass fanfares It is easy for a clarinet player to feel
and swinging string figures, which are “included” in the concertos he plays. After
alternatively taken up by the soloists. all, most of them were intended for, if not
informed by his virtuoso colleagues (as a
result of which they could just as well be who himself became a passionate supporter
dubbed “clarinettist concertos”). But in some of the concerto.
cases the link between a performer and a
piece is even stronger than that. Hendrikx feels he has “privileged front row
The Clarinet Concerto by Gerald Finzi access to the Finzi concerto. Thea must have
(1901-1956) was commissioned by the witnessed the creation process, and may have
Three Choirs Festival, and premiered on attended the work’s premiere. She convinced
September 9th of the festival’s 1949-edition me of the beauty of the concerto, and we
at Hereford cathedral. Finzi conducted the spent hours going over it. In her own hand,
London Symphony Orchestra and the soloist she added helpful qualifications like “angry”
was Frederick Thurston, Britain’s leading to a passage in the score which features
clarinettist of the wartime years. A professor Hitchcock-like suspense”.
at the Royal College of Music, Thurston was
also the principal clarinettist of the BBC But there is more. On 27 April 1998, Thea
Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia King bequeathed to Hendrikx the letters Finzi
Orchestra. In 1953, he married his student had written to her late husband between
Thea King, but succumbed to lung cancer 1948 and 1953: they document the first ideas
later that year. for the concerto, its genesis, and its growing
post-premiere fame. This is how Finzi initially
Thea King inherited her husband’s approached Thurston, a famed soloist he had
professorship at the Royal College of to convince of an unwritten concerto for a
Music, and her reputation as a virtuoso and modest fee:
teacher would eventually surpass his. She
passionately championed English music, and Oct 2nd 1948
her love for the Finzi concerto her husband Dear Thurston,
had premiered in 1949 was so virulent that it
infected her own student Roeland Hendrikx, Here is a difficult thing to write about. I was
asked to do another score for the Three of Thurston’s desires and abilities. Finzi
Choirs at Hereford next September: a work was first and foremost a composer of
for strings, without a soloist, was specified, vocal and especially choral music, and
for the Friday morning September 9th. concertos were clearly not his main turf.
But for some time I’ve wanted to do a short So if Thurston suggests a note was too
concerto for clarinet & strings, and eventually high or uncomfortable, Finzi changed it
P. C. Hull agreed to let me have my way. immediately.”

The first thing is to know whether you will A number of letters written in the summer of
take an unwritten concerto on trust. Naturally, 1949, perilously close to the work’s premiere,
if you are willing to do it, I should be as document the composition process, and
grateful as I should be delighted. Finzi’s delicate attitude which borders on the
Finzi then goes on about the dire straits the
Three Choirs festival is in, and the need for a July 24th
humble fee for Thurston: (…)

So I said I would ask you privately what you Do you mind me sending the last two
would do it for & whether a special fee would movements first, then I can let you have the
be possible. Naturally, I don’t like doing this but first movement, which is shorter than these
I feel rather responsible for having made P. C. two later on in August.
change his plans, though he seems very pleased
now at the idea of a clarinet work, especially as I thought that if you could have a look at the
they haven’t had such a thing before. notes (which are child’s play for you) we can
get down to tempi and details nearer the
According to Hendrikx, “Finzi was a time, when perhaps we could meet and go
prudent man who clearly wrote in function through the score.
About these two movements. Do please let (…) the little cadenza we can try out at
me know if there is anything impracti[ca] Oxford. Actually it doesn’t want to be more
ble. At any rate, I hope I have left you more than half a dozen bars, but it’s not easy to do,
breathing space than Milhaud did in that work though I think V. W. was right on that point.
the other evening.
I really was most grateful for the way you
And three weeks later (Aug 13): worked on the concerto (…). If the Boyd Neel
lot do as you’ve suggested & get to know their
Here’s the first movement: I only hope that part beforehand, then I shall feel pretty safe
the silence about the other two doesn’t mean with one rehearsal. All the same, Toscanini
that you find them unspeakable. asks for six. How much more do I need 60!

Shortly after the concert (Sept 15th), Finzi Throughout the correspondence, Finzi
refers to some reviews, an extra cadenza profiles himself as an extraordinarily nice and
suggested by Vaughan Williams (V.W.) after benevolent person. A letter dated July 2nd
the premiere, and a follow-up performance by 1950 contains an evaluation of Thurston’s
the – at the time quite illustrious – Boyd Neel solo performance, as well as a tempo
Orchestra; Finzi casually throws in a reference recommendation:
to Arturo Toscanini (with whom Thurston had
recorded the Brahms Symphonies): I thought your playing was at the top of its
form & there’s not a thing that you do that I’d
I’ve seen a few notices of the concerto, mostly have otherwise (but don’t rush that Rondo
kind, though that means absolutely nothing. tune. It’s carefree & gay but not hectic).
However, it is nice to see the universal praise
of the soloist and I should be the first to agree In a letter dated Sept. 21st (probably 1950),
that all the care & trouble you took over the Finzi refers to the concerto’s eventual
work was the making of it. publisher Boosey & Hawkes (B & H) and an
upcoming performance of the concerto by and do some sightseeing in the concerto’s
Iris Lemare’s String Orchestra – Iris Lemare, spatiotemporal context: “Through Thea’s
by the way, was the first lady conductor of notes in my score, and through the letters,
the BBC Symphony Orchestra: Thurston and Finzi speak out to me, as
it were. I am delighted to make their
I heard from B & H yesterday, and they acquaintance, and I intend to repay their
casually mentioned that the work was to be friendship by promoting their concerto as
done on November 7th by the Lemare String passionately as possible. It deserves its place
Orchestra. This is news to me and I have just in the clarinet canon so much.”
sent Iris Lemare a note that to warn her that it
is not an easy work and that her players had
better have the parts beforehand to work at.
(…) Have you been approached? If not I hope Stefan Grondelaers
to God that she doesn’t really imagine that
it can be handed to the second clarinet on
Scarborough pier.

It has been claimed that a picture says more

than a thousand words, but the Finzi-letters
represent a powerful time machine which
offers a rare insight into the peacefulness
and the rich musical life of post-war Britain.
They unveil a pastoral micro-cosmos which
shows little trace of the massacre Europe
had witnessed not half a decade earlier. The
letters enable Hendrikx to go beyond the
notes of the concerto, meet the protagonists,
Roeland Hendrikx is For this recording, Sanders Geerts is
a Henri Selmer Paris Roeland Hendrikx playing on a Falk
artist.  played the Selmer Peeters viola.
Recital clarinets.


PHILHARMONIC Helena Smart Francis Bucknall Robert Plane
ORCHESTRA: Ashley Stevens Gregory Walmsley Thomas Watmough
Fiona Higham Elisabeth Wiklander
VIOLIN I Joseph Maher Susanna Riddell BASSOONS
Pieter Schoeman Sioni Williams Richard Skinner
Katalin Varnagy Harry Kerr BASSES Angharad Thomas
Geoffrey Lynn Alison Strange Sebastian Pennar
Catherine Craig Georgina Leo Hugh Kluger HORNS
Sarah Streatfeild Kate Cole George Peniston Stephen Nicholls
Yang Zhang John Dickinson Elise Campbell
Tina Gruenberg FLUTES Martin Hobbs
Rebecca Shorrock VIOLAS Harry Winstanley Gareth Mollison
Rasa Zukauskaite Jon Thorne Emilia Zakrzewska
Katherine Waller Katharine Leek TRUMPETS
Susanne Martens OBOES Paul Beniston
Benedetto Pollani Ian Hardwick Anne McAneney
Laura Vallejo Alice Munday
Daniel Cornford TIMPANI
Sue Bohling
Spaas Kaarsen NV Hamont, Hegge NV Hamont, Rotary Noord-Limburg.
Letters reproduced with the kind permission of Josephine Finzi

This is a high resolution audio recording.
Recorded at Henry Wood Hall, London, UK, on April 7, 8 and 9 2018.
Recording, mixing and mastering by Steven Maes for MotorMusic Classic.
Musical director and editing: Felicia Bockstael
Assistant engineer: Floren Van Stichel
Evil Penguin Classic
2018 EPRC 0026

An Evil Penguin Classic production.

In collaboration with:

Sleeve: © Johannes Vande Voorde
Booklet p. 1: © Diego Franssens
Picture Sander Geerts: © Luc Daelemans

Graphic design: Gerard Leysen


Gerald Finzi - Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra Op. 31

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2. Adagio, ma senza rigore 11:16
3. Rondo. Allegro giocoso 08:46

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4. Allegro 12:54
5. Adagio 07:04
6. Rondo. Allegro 08:51

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7. Andante con moto 07:13
8. Allegro moderato 06:09
9. Allegro molto 05:41