Tonal Contemporary Repertoire

Dear Sherman,
First of all I’d like to say thanks for creating such an amazing site for clarinet references. i have spent literally hours reading through all the articles….anyway back onto my query. I’m 16 and ive been playing the clarinet for a while. I’ve somehow gotten my way through most of the famous works like Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, as well as Webers and Finzis. But what I really enjoy is playing modern music such as Malcolm Arnold Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano which is very flashy and exciting, yet retains tonality unlike many other new modern pieces such as the Lutoslawski. I was wondering if you could recommend any other pieces such as this which are incredibly exciting yet pleasant on the ear. I’ve recently started playing the La Traviata Fantasia by Lovreglio which I find is an amazing showpiece. Do you agree?

I am more than happy to respond to your questions concerning repertoire that has been written during our time, and yet “are incredibly exciting yet pleasant on the ear Of course to answer this question one must realize that the ear ought to be a constantly changing and ever-inclusive , especially for a younger student, or for any clarinetist, or musician. There are many many clarinetists who play the instrument very well, yet are unaware of new repertoire or completely uninterested in anything save the learning of orchestral repertoire, rather than newer solo or chamber music. This they do at their detriment and their denial of the pleasure of playing new music.I am happy that you have started on a new piece for you, yet I must tell you that it is the duty of every clarinetist to seek out and to play new music, not necessarily reworked music, but inclusive of all periods especially music composed during our time and of our tonal acceptance.All of us listen to so many different types of music, even unconsciously on the radio, in the movies, on elevators, all of which becomes somehow part of the fabric of our sensibility, our taste, if you will The many works for the clarinet that form just a part of our 20th century musical fabric, and are pleasant to the ear might begin with the Four Pieces, by Alban Berg, composed in about 1905 or so. These pieces, incredibly short, of perhaps several dozen measures and five minutes or so in duration lay the foundation of our increasing awareness as clarinetists, living today. At first these pieces seem distant, yet as we study them they become less complicated, more familiar until we begin to listen for other influences in the work of this great 20th century composer. If we listen carefully to the very opening of the first piece, we are suddenly reminded of the major theme of Richard Strauss in his “Til Eulenspiegel”, the famous tone poem of the last years of the 19th century. The theme is the same, almost note for note. Accident? No. Brand new? No. The time honored tradition that “nothing springs forth full-blown”, every great work relies on the work(s) which precede. Accepting that premise is the foundation of learning about our music, and our so-called new music. When we learn about these short pieces by Berg, we discover more and more familiarity, and more and more fragments which, while deriving from historical sources seem brand new.A careful study of this early Opus by Berg will lay a wonderful foundation for your study of new music that yes, “pleasant to the ear” Our ears must always enlarge and if we try, even the strangest works, if they are conceived will be available to our sensibility and become part of our abilities, and be pleasant to the ear. Of course, this includes music which is dissonant, perhaps even harsh initially.But back to your particular question concerning new music, not necessarily as angular and “different” as Berg, perhaps a place to begin is with the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Paul Hindemith, a favorite, because of its lovely melody and its challenging rhythmic disparity. A piece in which the clarinet and the piano play in different rhythms is essential to understanding the music of our time. One might continue with the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Lenoard Bernstein, in many ways derivitive (as is all of Bernstein) of the Hindemith, yet certainly very different. Beautiful melody and really comprising themes and fragments of themes that go as far as to suggest “West Side Story”by Bernstein. There are so many other works for the clarinet that I cannot begin to enumerate them. There are several works of chamber music that I have analyzed for performance within this site and they certainly are works for your consideration. In any event, let me know if you have more questions. I have more than 40 works written or dedicated to me, many of which I have recorded and are availble.

Try the music of Aaron Copland. He has chamber music, and the Violin Sonata, which he transcribed and arranged for the clarinet is a very lovely work.

Good luck in all of your work.

Sincerely, sf


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