Nancy Williams


Oravitz, Michael

Committee Member

Jacobson, Lauren

Committee Member

Kauffman, Deborah

Committee Member

Welsh, Michael


College of Performing and Visual Arts; Clarinet Performance


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



142 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Even though the use of the solo clarinet in British song made large advances in the twentieth century, many clarinetists are unaware of its repertory. A study of these songs will make it easier for performers to find these scores and will encourage them to program a greater variety of these songs, many of which are significantly underserved. Furthermore, a study of this repertory will lead to greater understanding of the importance of the repertoire and the role of the clarinet in it, resulting in informative and engaging performances. Both the investigation of the history of the clarinet's use in British song and the application of analysis underscore the significance of this repertoire. The connection between voice and clarinet is longstanding in British song, as is evident in the obbligatos written for the instrument for performance in outdoor concerts and popular song publications of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. British art song modeled Italian and German styles throughout the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. During this time, the clarinet was often associated with the pastoral style, either through bird imitation or through its inclusion in settings of pastoral texts. Once British national song was established in the twentieth century, the clarinet’s role became more complex and varied, although a heavy pastoral vein is still evident. The analyses of musical elements and extramusical associations within twelve twentieth-century British art songs both illuminate the clarinet’s role and point to suggestions for performance. The twelve works examined here are Arthur Bliss’s Two Nursery Rhymes, Gordan Jacob’s Three Songs, Thea Musgrave’s Four Portraits, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Three Vocalises, Arthur Butterworth’s The Night Wind, Justin Connolly’s Poems of Wallace Stevens II, William Wordsworth’s “The Solitary Reaper,” Michael Head’s “The World is Mad,” Phyllis Tate’s Scenes from Tyneside, James MacMillan’s “The Blacksmith,” Elizabeth Maconchy’s “L’Horloge,” and Michael Finnissy’s Beuk O' Newcassel Sangs. Twentieth-century composers utilized the clarinet idiomatically, exploiting the clarinet’s color and pastoral implication, timbral differences among registers, large range, and technical capabilities (including extended techniques) to depict the text and affect of art songs in unique ways, its role occasionally elevated to that of equal status with the solo voice. The clarinet also has a close relationship to the lament style, in addition to the pastoral style, which itself has complex associations. These extramusical elements and conventions determine the increased role and heightened status of the clarinet in British art song and allow performers to make informed performance decisions.

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Copyright is held by the author.