Anna Clyne: Weathered concerto for clarinetist Martin Fröst
Anna Clyne's new clarinet concerto for Martin Fröst, Weathered, is unveiled by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Jaap van Zweden on 5 January in Amsterdam, with its UK premiere by the Philharmonia following on 23 March in London. In this interview the composer reveals the genesis of the new work.
Are there sounds or traditions that particularly attract you to the clarinet?
I'm drawn to the range of colours available on the clarinet – from rich warm sonorities to screeching and abrasive sounds and I had much fun exploring the extremes in this piece, Weathered. As a cellist, composing for woodwinds poses new challenges and, during the writing process for Weathered, I spent much time listening to recordings of clarinet repertoire, especially Martin Fröst’s recordings, to become more familiar with the capabilities of the instrument – both characteristically and technically.
Did you collaborate on the piece directly with Martin Fröst?
Before writing a note, Martin and I met on a Zoom call so that he could share a variety of extended techniques that were new to me – such as singing at the same time as playing, harmonics, the agility of certain licks, and the possibilities at the extreme highest register of the instrument. Following this, I wrote five sketches for solo clarinet and after each one was complete, Martin and I again met on Zoom to share feedback on the sketches – what could, for example, be altered to make it more idiosyncratic. I then went on to expand my favourite parts of those sketches - spinning them out within the context of the orchestra.
Once the first draft of the complete concerto was complete, I shared this with Martin, and again he offered feedback until we had a final version of Weathered. I’m very grateful for Martin’s collaborative spirit during this process and feel it has made for a stronger, more idiosyncratic piece, which I am very much looking forward to hearing.
Movements relate to physically weathered objects. How did you translate these to music?
Weathered is set in five 5-minute movements, each one exploring a different weathered element: Metal, Heart, Stone, Wood, and Earth. These weathered elements are both beautiful and poignant; a rusted bridge, a broken heart, a wind-worn castle, a majestic forest, and a warming planet. Weathered also touches on our collective global experiences of the COVID pandemic and the alarm of global warming. On a very literal level, in Metal, I use a lot of metallic percussive instruments such as tubular bells and metal pipes. Similarly, for the fourth movement, Wood, the wooden percussion such as the marimba, and woodwinds, are featured. For Heart, I want to emulate a broken heart, so I explore the lower, expressive range of the instrument over a static string drone with echoes of the soloist threaded through the orchestra. Stone is more playful – also imagining skipping stones on a lake – gestures that bounce, glide and twist and turn. For Earth, elements from all four of the previous elements are woven together to create the whole.
How did you respond to climate change in the work?
The fifth and final movement of Weathered, Earth, begins with a fanfare-like figure in the brass – a sounding alarm to bring our attention to the crisis that long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns is bringing upon us. We are at a critical point.
How does the piece relate to your saxophone concerto Glasslands, written the year before?
Weathered builds on what I learnt through the process of writing Glasslands for Jess Gillam – exploring the extremes of the instrument. Glasslands, which is set in three movements, conjures an imaginary world of three realms governed by the banshee - a female spirit who, in Irish folklore, heralds the death of a family member, usually by wailing, shrieking, or keening in the silence of the night. The themes of Weathered are more concrete, yet their interpretations are a little more abstract.
Interview with David Allenby (2022)
> Visit the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra website
> Visit the Philharmonia website
Weathered (2022) 27'
for clarinet and orchestra
Commissioned by Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and Verbier Festival.
5/6/8 January 2023 (world premiere)
Royal Concertgebouw Hall, Amsterdam
Martin Fröst, clarinet /
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/
Jaap van Zweden
23 March 2023 (UK premiere)
Royal Festival Hall, London
Martin Fröst, clarinet /
Philharmonia / Pekka Kuusisto
> Further information on Work: Weathered
Photo: Christina Kernohan