Glow was written in response to a request from the Verdehr Trio founding members, Walter and Elsa Verdehr, for a new double concerto for violin and clarinet.
As I began to think through the possibilities for the new work, many things ran through my mind’s ear, but the one thing I could not escape was a sense of quietly pulsating – or glowing – chords that would characterize the opening movement. Coupled with these slowly pulsing chords is a yearning accompaniment figuration underpinning them and together these materials form the substantive basis for the entire work.
The first movement is in a broadly arched form and is dark, rather serious, lyrical and brooding in nature. The soloists roles are, in this movement, ones of ‘chief spokesmen’ for the group rather than taking the oppositional narrative that typifies the traditional soloist orchestra concerto relationship. Each soloist takes a turn at this role and they often play together throughout this movement. The violin soloist opens the work with a soaring and sad melody after the opening orchestral statement. This opening melody leads to the first climax of the work after which the clarinet soloist contributes the first clarinet statement of the work, a correspondingly dark, sad melody that complements the violin soloists’ tune. After this first climactic statement from the orchestra, the pace and tonal center shift somewhat and the clarinet soloist takes the spotlight with an agitated, ornamented tune. The violin interjects melodic fragments from the opening statement of the violin soloist’s material, and it is from these two sources that the long working out of materials between the violin, clarinet and orchestra ensues. This working out leads to the main climactic orchestral moment in this first movement and one that finishes with an emphatic and dramatic restatement of the opening accompaniment figuration. This in turn leads to a solo violin and solo clarinet ‘bridge’ to a closing coda, again based on the opening accompaniment to this movement, slightly reworked.
The second movement is a quite short passacaglia of eight simple repetitions of the theme with increased layers of counterpoint as the movement unfolds. This leads to a short codetta that prepares for the long cadenza first for clarinet and then for the violin. The violin soloist takes the major spotlight here with a quite long cadenza that bridges the mood and tempo of the second movement into the character of the last movement. Quite near the end of this cadenza, the clarinet soloist rejoins the violin soloist in a now emphatic and quick bridge to the fast last movement.
The orchestra pierces this texture with bright, punctuated chords that also move the harmonic base of the work towards E and the joyous, playful melody that is heard in the violin solo part heralds the start of this third movement. Immediately following this the orchestra makes a full orchestral statement of this tune followed by a jaunty, happily virtuosic tune in double stops in the solo violin followed by a correspondingly showy solo passage for the clarinet. These two ideas are then combined with the soloists playing as a duo. A restatement of the tune by the orchestra follows and then the violin soloist’s material abruptly moves the tonal center to G minor with an agitated hemiola-driven figuration that turns declamatory when taken up by the clarinet. The full orchestra then states the melody again in G minor. Following this the texture and mood lighten into D major and a more joyous dimension returns to the violin soloists flourishing figuration. A low register figuration in the solo clarinet part takes over the argument and this leads to simple trills that accompany the violin soloists’ restatement of the D major material. A fractured restatement of the opening melody occurs with the first phrase in D major and the second in Eb minor setting the stage for a difficult double-stopped solo passage in the violin. The orchestra takes up the hemiola-driven figuration the violin soloist original stated in G minor only here it is stated in Eb minor. This in turn leads to a nine-bar clarinet flourish, which is dramatically concluded by another re-statement of the agitated hemiola-driven material by the orchestra. A final statement of the melody in the full orchestra, again, in E, followed by a concluding codetta finishes this movement and the concerto.
Glow is the last work of mine to be performed in Tasmania under the auspices of the Australian International Summer Orchestra Institute that I founded in 2006. The piece is dedicated with deep affection to Elsa and Walter Verdehr who have been so supportive of my work over the last five or six years.