Paul Cigan, principal clarinetist of the National Symphony Orchestra and professor at the University of Maryland, was well at home teaching three budding young clarinetists in his Friday masterclass. Luis Carlos De Leon, Kristi Hanno and Allison Allum all played classics from the standard repertoire, and everyone in the School of Music Recital Hall benefited from the new life Cigan breathed into the music.
Starting off with a bang, Luis Carlos De Leon dove right in with a fiery rendition of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9. De Leon played with agility and evenness, and Cigan encouraged an even more smooth interpretation by having De Leon play the entire passage slowly and slurred. When he returned to the original tempo and articulation markings, it sounded like a different piece. De Leon also played the slow movement from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. Cigan demonstrated several ways to make the solo more interesting, with direction, despite the challenge every clarinetist faces when performing it unaccompanied.
Kristi Hanno performed the cadenza from the Copland concerto with great ease and expression. While recognizing Hanno’s carefully considered phrasing and musical accents, Cigan helped “edit” them to make the harmonic structure more clear. In keeping with the concerto’s jazz influences, Cigan recommended that Hanno play the very beginning of the cadenza as if she were making up the melody on the spot. The cadenza became even more purposeful, and Hanno’s expressions more noticeable, as she responded to his suggestions.
Last but not least, Allison Allum performed the solo from the Trio of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and the standard solo from Pines of Rome. Despite having picked two very challenging excerpts, Allum displayed a firm basic knowledge of the works as well as a good foundation with which Cigan could work. The pair worked on smoothness in both excerpts as well as tempo in the first and a projecting, but beautiful sound in the second. Always attentive to the finer points in the music, Cigan pointed out that possibly the most difficult aspect of Pines of Rome is making a difference in the dynamics between the first and second statements of the theme. Allum showed great enthusiasm and responsiveness to Cigan’s ideas. For these college students and the audience members of all ages, the class was a great chance to refocus and gain inspiration in preparation for the fall.
–Notes by Alaina Pritz
Alaina Pritz is a recent graduate from The University of Maryland and currently plays with The United State Air Force Band – Band of the Golden West.