A Masterclass with Gregory Raden

Fresh from his performance of the Weber Concerto No. 1 on Saturday night, Dallas Symphony principal clarinetist Gregory Raden gave a masterclass on orchestral excerpts and solo literature Sunday morning at 11:00 in the School of Music Recital Hall. First was Alec Manasse, winner of the 2014 High School competition, who played the first movement excerpts from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol.  Raden focused on finding a brilliant, “celebratory” quality referencing a word that Manasse used to characterize the excerpt. This included focusing on an intense airstream and using rhythm as an anchor, including mimicking the percussion rhythm to lightly emphasize the final sixteenth of the pair found at the end of the beat. Raden suggested that while a double trill is possible, it should not be attempted at the expense of the fundamental rhythm, and noted that a single trill, especially if “spread out” a bit in the second solo, can still have “plenty of flourish.”

Next, Caitlin Poupard played the cadenza from the Copland Concerto. Here, Raden worked to bring out the contrasts of the piece, beginning with the legato of the opening that “melts” one note into the next. He encouraged Poulard to listen carefully to the quality of each of the fast-moving notes, even as she allowed the rhythm to flow more, without too many phrase breaks.

Finally, Zachary Dierickx played the excerpts from Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9. In the slow movement, Raden worked with Dierickx to bring out a contemplative, lonely quality to the solo.  He noted the difficulty of tuning the throat B-flat that ends the second and third phrases of the solo. Raden worked to even out some of the “bumps” that often creep into the line, suggesting a one-and-one B-flat in the phrase that leads to the high F-sharp. He suggested seeking a variety of options for the altissimo notes in the passage, using whatever vocabulary of fingerings best suits the player’s instrument and personal playing style. In the fast-movement excerpt, he congratulated Dierickx on choosing a slightly slower tempo, favoring clarity and brilliance over blind speed. He suggested that Dierickx continue to work on crisp articulation, but also congratulated him on keeping energy right to the end of the solo.

Raden suggested at the start of the masterclass that it is helpful to write a single word or short phrase at the top of an orchestral excerpt, to help call up a musical character when moving rapidly between excerpts in an audition situation. He also emphasized the importance of learning excerpts off original parts whenever possible and not out of excerpt collections that often include mistakes or missing measures. All three performers played brilliantly, and it was fascinating to hear Raden’s helpful and practical insights into this literature.

–Notes by Michael Rowlett
Michael Rowlett is the assistant Professor of Clarinet at The University of Mississippi.  You can find his CD Close to Home: Music of American Composers on Amazon and Albany Records.

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