Arthur Somervell

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Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet in G Major

In 1913, the English firm of Augener published Arthur Somervell's Clarinet Quintet in G Major, an extraordinarily fine work, which had to wait until 1919 for its premiere, and this alone, single-handedly, was enough to ensure its immediatel disappearance..


"It is hardly surprising, given that his teachers were all admirers and friends of Brahms that Somervell’s Clarinet Quintet in G Major, written in 1913, shows Brahms’ influence, but this said, it must be emphasized that it is quite original rather than merely imitative. In four movements, the opening Sostenuto—Allegretto, quasi andante, grazioso, is absolutely first rate; wonderful tunes for all and wonderfully executed. The clarinet blends in so seamlessly. Next comes a lovely Intermezzo infused with a Brahmsian languidity. The middle section is an updated musette. This is followed by a Lament, Adagio non troppo that begins more as a solemn hymn rather than a dirge. But as the music is developed in variation format, it transforms into a rather quiet and reflective funereal march which is succeeded by a series of striking and exotic episodes. The finale, Allegro vivace, begins in a sprightly, celebratory fashion but then slowly calms down and receives a serenade and march-like development. An abrupt and quite short coda brings the work to a close. The excellent clarinet writing must in part be due to the fact that Somervell, though he received no formal training, could play the clarinet quite well. What a find! This is a late romantic masterpiece." ---The Chamber Music Journal


Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) was born in the English town of Windermere. He studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford at Cambridge University and Hubert Parry in London. Subsequently, on Standford's recommendation, he went to Berlin where he continued his studies with Friedrich Kiel, who had taught Standford, and Woldemar Bargiel, who became a close friend of Brahms by virtue of being Clara Schumann's younger half brother. Somervell pursued a dual career of composer and teacher, serving as a professor at the Royal College of Music in London. Most of his works are for voice in one form or another and this quintet is his only chamber work.


If this quintet had appeared and been premiered as little as five years earlier, say in 1908, it almost certainly would have entered the repertoire. But the fact that it was not premiered until 1919, at which point in time all things from the Romantic era were held is great distain, absolutely sealed its fate with the result that this fine music never received that chance it deserved to be played and heard by audiences. No clarinet ensemble, be it professional or amateur, should miss the opportunity to sample this lovely music.  We were fortunate to obtain a copy of the original Augener edition, and our edition, with a few minor differences, is for all practical purposes is a replica of the Augener edition.

Parts: $29.95 




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