A day at the Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary

Angel’s Arc (with clarinettist Matthew Hunt) 1 October 2021

Stephen Johnson’s Angel’s Arc for clarinet and string quartet was written as a tribute to an area of the Pennine moors which he explored during his teenage years, though there are also music quotations which reference people who were important to him at that period. The Carducci Quartet were joined by clarinettist, Matthew Hunt (from the Orsini Ensemble). The worked opened with lovely rhapsodic moments for the clarinet over quietly sustained strings.

There were moments of dialogue, but the clarinet was very much to the fore and I kept thinking of Finzi’s writing for clarinet. The middle section was a sort of furiously intense scherzo, with fast movements between different emotions yet still with time for the clarinet to meander, despite some furious string playing. The world of the opening section returned, with a sense of unwinding. Despite moments of loveliness and some thoughtful clarinet playing, Johnson also created a feeling of unease in the music resulting in a strikingly complex piece.