Sonatina for clarinet and piano, Op. 29 Sir Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006)
Born in the English market town of Northampton, Malcolm Arnold began his professional career in the early 1940s as a trumpeter in the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. But after a few years, with his earliest works already in print, he decided on a full-time composing career.
Between 1946 and 1952 he wrote a group of four sonatinas for various wind instruments and piano. Skillfully written to show off the full range of a particular instrument’s characteristics, each was intended for a specific player and designed to reflect that individual’s style of playing.
The Clarinet Sonatina was written in 1951 for the influential player and teacher Frederick Thurston. The spirited first movement begins by sending the clarinet rocketing up through nearly three octaves and plunging back down again, all within the space of four measures. The second theme, a typical catchy tune in Arnold’s popular style, reappears in a ghostly pianissimo at the bottom of the clarinet’s compass at the end of the movement.
This part of the instrument’s range, the so-called chalumeau register, is also explored in the middle section of the smoothly flowing Andantino, whose moody melodic and harmonic style is influenced by Arnold’s love of jazz. It provides a few moments of edgy calm before the hectic, breathless Furioso.