Joy beast

Holt, S. (2016) Joy beast. [Composition]


For solo bassett clarinet and orchestra, duration 15 minutes. This piece was premiered on 30 June 2017 by Mark Simpson (bassett clarinet) and the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, at Hull City Hall. "‘Joy Beast’ came about from an initial text message to Mark Simpson who has been, for some years now, trying to create a strong repertoire of pieces for the basset clarinet. “Basset clarinet concerto?” followed by Mark’s response: “You took the very thought out of my head!” I seem, over the years, to have written a fair few pieces for clarinets of all varieties, but nothing for the basset clarinet, an instrument I must confess to have known very little about. Finding a way through the 15’ duration handed to me with the eventual commission for the BBC Philharmonic with Mark as soloist, became the project. I had earlier written a piccolo concerto (‘Fool is hurt’) ‘inspired’ in part by the mesmeric Fool paintings and etchings of Cecil Collins and I found that the thought process around this subject matter leaked into the thinking for the new concerto. And so ‘Joy Beast’ began its life, especially when I discovered the very other etching (of the same name) also by Collins of a rampant, bull-like creature with fearsome horns. It provided a suitable contrast to the more contemplative fool images of the first three movements: 1] Sleeping Fool, 2] Fool and birds and 3] The Secret. So much so that the piece seems to break out of the orchestra altogether and invade the audience in the form of an offstage piccolo and muted trumpet (who play music that is utterly independent to the orchestra with their own unsynchronised tempi) and also with a rogue offstage bassoon, with which the basset clarinet duets. The piece lasts about 17’30” and is, of course, dedicated to Mark Simpson." © Simon Holt

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