Maxim, Christopher: Here be Dragons! for Clarinet and Piano
Though much to be feared, dragons by definition are rarely encountered, living at the furthest corners of the known world, or further even than that. As Bilbo Baggins discovered, to go in search of one can be an epic journey; and though Christopher Maxim, composer of the popular Toccata Nuptiale for organ, does not reveal whether Smaug, or Fafner, or the dragon slain by Saint George, is the particular beast in view, Here be Dragons! has the dramatic atmosphere of an adventure to remote and mythical places. Darkly chromatic roulades for clarinet, perhaps the creature’s fiery breath, set the scene for an exciting duet on a gripping theme that stalks through the music in a variety of menacing variations, including a dragonish fugue. In the energetic arpeggios and trills that embellish the tune there is much for players of around Grade 8 standard to relish, in a showpiece that will undoubtedly lend enchantment to any concert.
The world première can be enjoyed on YouTube here…
Here be Dragons! was originally composed for double bass an piano and was, almost immediately, adapted for clarinet in A, the version premièred by Antonia Mott on 21 march 2014. It was further adapted for clarinet in B flat at the request of Stainer & Bell. Lasting around seven minutes, this is a lovely showpiece full of colourful writing. Embellished scales and arpeggios are a particular feature, with some interesting chromatic writing.
Following a mysterious opening, during which the dragon seems to awaken gradually with rising an falling chromatic scales, the main 6/8 theme is dancelike and energetic in mood, though moderately paced. It passes through a variety of keys and there is a spooky fugue-like passage part way through.
Rhythmically it is fairly straightforward with some repetition, and the highest not is D flat just above the stave. Described as a piece for approximately Grade 8 players, my feeling is that it could easily be enjoyed by Grade 6-7 players too.
Carol Taylor (Clarinet & Saxophone Magazine)