Clarinet Concerto (Sky Blue) is in three movements (fast, slow, fast). The first and third movements are for solo clarinet and full orchestra. The second movement is for solo clarinet and strings only.
The solo versus ensemble dynamic is at its most intense in the third movement where different kinds of textures are explored, exchanged and resolved.
The subtitle "Sky Blue" is from a painting (1940) by Wassily Kandinsky in which figures appear to float freely across a clear blue sky. The painting has been described as ‘an ethereal, Miró-like confection with biomorphic squiggles that buzz like glimmering insects in the afternoon sun’ (Mona Molarsky). There are some places in the music which feature soloists in the orchestra alongside the solo clarinet, perhaps like the free-floating figures in Kandinsky’s painting.
The music has passages of simplicity, contrasting with places of greater complexity. The opening of the work is radiant, with energy and warmth. This material is recalled towards the end of the work in the third movement. Between these points, lightness, darkness, changing colours, tempos and tensions are explored.
The work was conceived for solo clarinet in A, to make use of this instrument's expressive timbre and range, including its low C sharp (in the second movement).
The work was written for the clarinettist Alison Hughes and is dedicated to Jenny Hughes on the occasion of her 80th birthday.