This is an arrangement of Godard’s third and final string quartet for clarinet quartet of two Bb clarinets, alto clarinet (or 3rd clarinet in Bb) and bass clarinet. It was originally published in 1893 towards the end of the composers life, and shows us all the traits of late romantic French chamber music. The first movement is lyrical and flowing, with rich chords and unexpected harmonic twists. The second movement is languid and dreamy, featuring a soaring bass clarinet solo in the middle of the movement. The third is almost like a minuet, featuring a florid melody in the first clarinet supported by the other instruments, and the final movement uses driving triplets and rhythmic unison passages to create urgency and excitement.
Surely the pinnacle of chamber music, quartets give the players a chance to interact on the most intimate level with the other players and the audience. Knowing when to bring your line to the fore or when to support another player, how to duet with another musician, and how to work with your fellow players to allow the music to flower is possibly the ultimate expression of musicianship. This quartet allows clarinettists access to this experience, and also gives a new insight into a composer who’s works have unjustifiably fallen out of favour.