Conflict and Meaning in Carl Nielsen's "Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 57 (1928)"

by Monroe, Douglas Charles

Abstract (Summary)
Carl Nielsen wrote his Concerto for Clarinet in 1928 for clarinetist Aage Oxenvad. Most Nielsen authorities describe it as a caricature of Oxenvad. Certainly Oxenvad had influence on Nielsen, and aspects of Oxenvad's personality are captured in the Concerto. Nonetheless, the music has more to do with Nielsen's life. In 1926, Nielsen suffered a heart attack. Until the time of his death in 1931, he suffered many more. By 1928, Nielsen was facing the last few years of his life without promise of a successful remedy for his heart disease. Nielsen's Concerto for Clarinet and its inherent conflict have more to do with his internal struggles than with any external influence. The Concerto is the only large-scale work Nielsen composed during the last five years of his life and it is filled with conflict that never resolves. After the introductory chapter, the five chapters that follow document five elements of conflict within the Concerto. Tonal conflict concerns the struggle between the piece's two main key centers, F and E and the absence of Nielsen's lifelong practice of "progressive tonality." There is also conflict in the interplay between the clarinet and the snare drum. Both instruments take on characters which are in direct opposition to one another. The clarinet is also set apart from the orchestra by means of its many cadenzas as well as its stylistic and range differences. Nielsen uses counterpoint as a metaphor for conflict; it presents conflict which never resolves. The final aspect of conflict is the short coda which dramatically ends the music by abruptly returning to the original key, signifying a failure to reach a new arrival. Though Nielsen rejected music's power to communicate directly about life events, the conflict and dark emotions of this work strongly suggest a link to his own inner battle with a mortal disease. As Dr. Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross documented in 1969, people who are terminally ill pass through five different stages of grief; anger is the stage most prevalent in the Concerto. Together, these aspects mirror the emotions of a man coming to grips with the end of his life.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:carl nielsen clarinet aage oxenvad referential music


Date of Publication:01/01/2008

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.