Malcom Arnold – Fantasy for clarinet op.87

This composition can be divided into four parts; A slow memorable melody, which is clearly the main theme can be heard at the beginning  and the end of the piece, it is repeated several times throughout the piece. The second part is a strong contrast to the first, the clarinet is being played much faster here and it becomes really hard to follow the structure of the piece. One tiny section of this “wild” second part reminds the listener of the main theme. The melody comes to a climax, where it suddenly stops and an incredibly slowly played third section can be heard, this gradually leads the listener back to the main theme from the beginning.

The slowly played main theme of this piece in combination with the clarinet gives the piece a very heroic and dramatic sound. The first, third and last part of this composition are mainly played quietly, whilst the second part is played loudly. Nevertheless, at some parts were a motive is played really quietly, a sudden, short forte section can be heard. Therefore some really loud sections include short moments of the clarinet playing softer.

Arnold often uses fast played arpeggios to go up or down a scale. Seeing that the clarinet has a very high range, which goes almost up to four octaves, the composer tried to present every variety of the instrument, not only with the melody going up and down, but also with the dynamics.


This piece was the first one from the series of one instrument-pieces, where the main theme was catchy enough for me to still clearly remember it after listening to it. Even though the second part was a bit confusing at times, I liked those small hints that reminded the listener of the first theme. I really enjoyed listening to it.

The composition also showed me how many different “colours” one instrument – in this case the clarinet – can produce. I was furthermore quite surprised by the sudden changes of the dynamics.

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