Marianna Bottini: Clarinet Concerto
One of the forefront voices in Italian classical music in the 19th century, Marianna Bottini (1802-58) was one of the few women who had her music performed at the St Cecilia festival. Bottini composed a number of works, most of which are for orchestra. Little is known about when exactly her Clarinet Concerto was composed, however many think it was between the ages of 13-20. Set firmly in classical traditions, the concerto is a fantastic display of a relatively new instrument of the era.
Movement I – Allegro
The buzz of energy at the start of the concerto carries through this movement, with the opening long introduction from the orchestra setting the scene effectively. Over 2 minutes in the soloist joins in the fun with a reinstatement of the opening string theme. The use of the clarinet’s higher range makes it stand out from the warmer textures of the orchestra. The simple melody soon develops into a quick and intricate display of musicianship from the soloist. Call and response figures bring the orchestra and soloist together for a fleeting moment before the soloist rushes off again. Bottini’s clean lines and classical harmony keep this movement measured and in control.
Movement II – Adagio
The slow central movement opens with the soloist playing the main theme. Accompanied by slow pulsating strings, the clarinet soars above with the beautiful melody. Bottini pushes the soloist into the limelight in this movement, with most of the orchestra not even playing a single note. After a short burst of energy, this movement concludes with a satisfying harmonic resolution.
Movement III – Allegretto
The much longer finale movement once again opens with the clarinet pronouncing the main theme. The light string accompaniment is bouncy and allows room for the soloist to add to the melody. Bottini challenges the soloist’s stamina throughout this movement, leaving little room for rest. A slow central section takes hold which showcases the composer’s orchestration skills and slow-developing harmonic language. As a quick tempo bursts through, the quick string theme is then translated onto the clarinet. The intricate and virtuosity of the last few pages of the concerto challenges the soloist and the orchestra. The concerto concludes with a run of scalic themes before the orchestra join in for the final chords.
Ⓒ Alex Burns