The writing of a concerto for my own instrument was an extremely exciting prospect and to have the opportunity of writing it with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in mind was the icing on the cake. All of those years playing and teaching the Mozart, the Weber pair, the Copland, Nielsen, Finzi, Françaix and John Adams concertos (to name a few) became a swirl of emotion and inspiration in my head.

Paul Dean, Melbourne Symphony OrchestraMelbourne Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence Paul Dean

I was also greatly inspired by the five great clarinettists of our past that helped to give us this great music: Stadler, Baermann, Hermstedt, Mühlfeld and Benny Goodman.

When I started the actual writing of the concerto I had just been through the premiere season of my first opera, so it was a relief to be writing what was a somewhat more straightforward composition for my own instrument. The wonderful thing about the opera was the amount of time spent in the rehearsal room with the orchestra at my disposal. I have to say, that was the most amazing learning experience any composer could have. Elements of what I learned during that time have influenced and enriched my writing of this concerto.

The actual music came in bursts of inspiration, beginning with the initial whoosh from the orchestra through to a burlesque and a waltz. The burlesque was a wonderful moment of composing. My partner and I were staying with friends in the Blue Mountains and I had some real space to do some clear thinking and creating. One night I had a dream that I saw myself playing a burlesque with an orchestra. I sprang out of bed and sat there at the laptop until it was finished. I had never felt such a free spirited yet determined piece of music come from within me!

Once the writing was done, the hard work really started. I had to learn it. I promised myself that no matter how difficult some parts were I would refuse to re-write it just to make it easier for myself. To this day, a month out from the premiere, I have remained true to that promise.

My Clarinet Concerto was commissioned by Andrew Johnston for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as a celebration of the 65th-wedding anniversary of his parents Stephanie Lillian Johnston and David Dawson Johnston. I am extremely grateful to both Andrew and the MSO for this opportunity and look forward with enormous excitement to unleashing it.


Paul Dean performs his new Clarinet Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Collins, at Melbourne Recital Centre on April 4 and at Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash, on April 5