Riffs and Refrains was written for the clarinettist Michael Collins. I had wanted to write a piece for him for a long time, since we were students together at the Royal College of Music Junior Department. The work exploits his virtuosity and versatility, displaying wide leaps and swiftly changing registers in the first movement and an increasingly passionate lyricism in the slower second.
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“In the jagged, jigsaw-like construction of the first movement, Refrains, sinewy and athletic in its angular lines, Turnage exploits the full range and colour of the solo instrument… the second of the two imaginatively scored movements has an elegiac quality, Collins spinning out his yearning, luminous line with a jazzman’s freewheeling ease.” The Independent
“…ambivalent playfulness dominates in Refrains… Ostensibly jazzy and improvisatory, it’s in fact a highly sophisticated structure… Constantly regenerating melody shapes the following Arioso – a true bel canto, in close harmony with the clarinet’s woodwind colleagues…” The Times