The Concertgebouworkest kicks off 2023 with a compelling feast concert by composer Anna Clyne

Well, that’s a good start to the new year. The Concertgebouworkest kicks off2023 with a feast concert: a new clarinet concerto that can be included in thestandard repertoire, and a Wagner joke that brings the audience into ecstasy.

The British-American Anna Clyne has composed a new clarinet concerto forclarinetist Martin Fröst (artist in residence of the Concertgebouw Orchestra):Weathered. A warm-blooded dark, compelling piece full of exciting twists.Clyne wants to show five weathered elements as a metaphor for an earth in badshape: metal, heart, stone, wood and earth. ‘Metal’ opens with a chiming bim-bam-bim-bam theme on the metal tubular bells, reminiscent of the Dies Iraetheme in Berlioz’ Symphony Fantastic. ‘Wood’ with an ominous low diphthongon the wooden marimba. And so on, the instrumentation can be drawn logically.

Also read the interview with Anna Clyne: The heart of composer Anna Clyne isalso weathered

Totally exciting

Completely illogical yet astonishing are the clarinetistic delights that Frösthas to endure. His glissandos are totally thrilling: a long note can suddenlyaccelerate sharply into the sky, lie there for a while and then arc deep intothe earth. Beautiful are the pieces where Fröst echoes in the orchestra: atheme by Fröst can continue to echo for a long time, swinging like a pendulumbetween the flutes and the oboes. Clyne hardly writes melodies, but mostlyrising and falling lines, often over several octaves, kept unpredictable bysliding gaps. There is tension in the pleasantly falling klezmer-likechromaticism in Fröst’s lines; always a lowering, and always with an ominousbacking chorus of sliding bass instruments, so that your chair always sinkshalf a meter from under your buttocks.

For Fröst’s solo in the third part ‘Stone’, with growls, false air and thesoftest, most highly pulsating trills, so quickly by touching one valvealternately with several fingers, Fröst rightly receives applause betweenparts.

Conductor Jaap van Zweden, as chief of the New York Philharmonic and a regularin new music premieres, stands out by not standing out and lets Fröst and theorchestra shine.

Also read the interview with Martin Fröst: ‘ Music is the deepening ofexistence’

Short parts of 8 minutes

Striking artistic choice by Clyne: she deliberately kept the parts short;about eight minutes each, to consciously sail along with a pop music trend:making music based on the listening behavior of young people on streamingservices such as Spotify. Ergo: not too long. “I just want people to hear mymusic,” Clyne said in NRC. That sounds like a helpful boundary at best, alittle more pessimistic as a commercial restriction. But it works out justright: longer would have meant thinning out the tension. Fortunately, Clynestays far from neoclassical emptiness, another proven ingredient for successon Spotify.

The only thing you ask yourself afterwards: what has weathered about theseelements? Except for that Dies Irae reference that comes back in ‘Earth’, nowunmistakable, the elements actually sound quite hopeful. Mysterious andcinematically dark, definitely; the base is full of deep drones. But there isalways a high instrument fluttering above: Clyne has optimistically discovereddarkness. The wood will grow again, the heart is still full of wonderfulmemories and the rust spots on the metal can be polished away. Is it the KCOthat plays like a radiant heater, or is the earth now so miserable that musiccan only comfort?

‘Ecstatic screaming’

Especially the first company from Wagners Die Valkyrie is known and loved.Van Zweden keeps the brass somewhat short, the strings lose some of Clyne’swarmth, but soprano Anja Kampe, tenor Stuart Skelton and bass Kwangchul Younsing an excellent Sieglinde, Siegmund and Hunding. The roof will come offafterwards. A blazing lady shouts an excellent summary on the balcony: “Thereis only one man who has ever made me scream ecstatically and that is Wagner!”

Sunday performance can be heard (back) on NPO Klassiek (formerly Radio 4).An absolute must.


World premiere of ‘Weathered’, clarinet concerto by Anna Clyne by Martin Fröstand Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Jaap van Zweden. Heard: 5/1,Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Repetition: 6/1, 8/1. Inl: concertgebouworkest.nlConcert of 8/1 also on


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A version of this article also appeared in the January 9, 2023 newspaper

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