I’ve saved this for a separate post.
chance world premieres. One was a fiendish little sonatina
for clarinet and piano, just four and a half minutes long, and bristling with
difficulty. The first two movements have the clarinet and piano playing separate
pieces at the same time, with independent forms, independent phrase shapes, and
bar lines and constantly changing time signatures that rarely intersect. The challenge
is to forget your normal ensemble instincts, and keep the two parts
independent. Then the third movement brings the players together in some tumultuous
unison craziness, modeled on a jazz solo, which goes as fast as it can be
played, involves jagged, irregular rhythms, and also features cruel leaps in
the clarinet part (as well as giving the clarinetist no time to breathe).
This got aced by Kevin Schempf
(who had the very smart idea to play the first movement, which goes very high,
on E flat clarinet), and Robert Satterlee. When they’d
finished, the large audience erupted in whoops and cheers, which didn’t exactly
make me unhappy. Then, the next day, a student with piercings
who worked at the town’s used bookstore told me she’d loved the piece. Small
towns are wonderful!
The other piece was a group of five songs for soprano and
piano, based on women’s monologues from Shakespeare. This also isn’t easy
music, ranging very high and low in the soprano part, and also featuring some
tricky, knotted rhythms and emotions that sometimes get fairly intense. The
first song, on top of that, lives in ambiguous territory midway between melody
and declamation; I’m not sure the balance of the two is easy to get right.
I hadn’t had a chance to work with the people who did these
songs, soprano Ann Corrigan and pianist I-Chen Yeh.
So when I sat down in the concert hall to hear them, I had no idea what to
expect. To my delight, the songs emerged exactly as I’d conceived them,
including some finely detailed nuances. All these were carefully notated in the
score, I’d hoped, but you never quite know how clearly a score is going to
speak to the people bringing it to life. In this case, there didn’t seem to be any
problems. Ann projected the drama and emotions of each song, with lots of
informed sympathy; I-Chen stood out for her firm and joyful precision (which
was really welcome in the tangled rhythms).
For anyone curious, I’ve put the scores of both pieces
online, along with computer realizations of the music. (When I get recordings
I’ll put those online, too.) Here are the links.
for Clarinet and Piano
revising, to include the E flat clarinet in the first movement)