Sean Hickey profile

Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra

clarinet, string orchestra (string quintet in chamber version)
FP: 4/07, Symphony Space, NYC: Metro Chamber Orchestra, David Gould (clarinet), Phil Nuzzo (conductor)

My most-performed orchestral work, in both versions it has received many performances by David Gould - the commissioner and dedicatee - and Alexander Fiterstein, who recorded the work for Delos.

Program Notes

The Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra was collaboratively commissioned by clarinetist David Gould, the Metro Chamber Orchestra, DANSR Inc, and Vandoren. The piece was written in 2006 and is in three distinct movements. The first movement, the longest of all, is centered around a dry, four-note motive in sixteenth notes, which is a springboard for motivic development in the clarinet, regularly accompanied by pizzicato strings. A contrasting lyrical episode makes two appearances in the movement. After a brief cadenza, new material is introduced, often in short fragments, but the opening figure predominates, ending the movement with an assertive thud.


            In contrast, the second movement is more flexible and meditative, beginning with a falling minor third that permeates most of the section, and marked by thicker harmonies. The movement slows down and pauses on an enigmatic final chord. Opening with a furious string gesture in octaves, the third movement asserts a dancing, yet occasionally awkward 3/8 flow. In a short clarinet solo and, later, cadenza, two tiny fragments of Scottish airs appear: The Cross of Inverness and Glenmoriston, both grafted onto the 3/8 meter. The cadenza leads into the first presentation of Hunter’s House, the G major melody that more than pervades the remainder of the piece. A word on the tune: the reel was composed by Ed Reavy (1898-1988), an influential fiddler from Cavan who settled in Philadelphia. It has a timeless quality though likely it isn’t more than a few decades old. Clarinet and strings treat the tune imitatively and lead headlong into a rapturous close.


            The concerto is also played, in a slightly altered version, as a chamber work for clarinet and string quartet.

Alex Fiterstein performed the concerto with the St. Petersburg Symphony, led by Vladimir Lande, at the Large Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in Russia. The same forces recorded the work for the Delos release, Concertos





Concertos album cover