Tag Archives: bass clarinet

Lagniappe Recital: Gythfeldt-Watson- Myth-Science Ensemble

sundaymorning3It was no sleepy Sunday for ClarinetFest 2014 at Shaver Theater this morning, where another Lagniappe Recital showcased several excellent performers and their eclectic choices of music, including several works with electronics and visuals and a world premiere piece for solo bass clarinet. Marianne Gythfeldt, Anne Watson, and the Myth-Science Ensemble all performed for a supportive and patient audience despite the recital’s late start.

Dr. Marianne Gythfeldt, an Assistant Professor of Music at Brooklyn College, started the hour with Mikel Kuehn’s Rite of Passage followed by Gene Pritsker’s Modified #4. The audience was surrounded by stereo electronic sounds while Dr. Gythfeldt played live passages from the center of the stage. Her use of a laptop and panel of foot pedals enabled her to change the electronic sounds as the music progressed.

Dr. Anne Watson of Northeastern State University (Tahlequah, Oklahoma) continued the recital with the world premiere of Theresa Martin’s Grit n’ Grind for bass clarinet. Dr. Watson briefly described an intense exercise routine, involving crawls through the mud, which prompted Theresa Martin to compose the work. The piece’s call for steady technique throughout the bass clarinet’s registers was highlighted wonderfully by Dr. Watson’s playing.

The final works of the concert were presented by the Myth-Science Ensemble of Dwight Frizzell and Thomas Aber on bass clarinet, zwoom, and electronica. Their first work Slippages III was accompanied by brilliantly-colored visual presentations as a backdrop for the performers. Frizzell discussed the directional approach to the work’s amplification, where a unit of sound may be played live by Frizzell or Aber and then repeated behind them on electronics or vice-versa. The use of zwooms, a long circular tube with bass clarinet mouthpiece, produced a dark and shrill sound similar to a contrabass clarinet, though their movement of the instruments varied the timbre. The second work Oceans of Kansas was aptly named for the audio samples of certain reactive minerals and chemicals used in the piece. Aber provided whimsical bass clarinet sounds and passages while the visual and audio presentation of the piece carried on.

–Notes by Joel Auringer
Joel Auringer is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He currently maintains a private studio in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas metroplex, and will begin doctoral study at the University of North Texas in the fall.


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Filed under Day 5, Lagniappe Recital, Performances

Lagniappe Recital: Lulich-Luzembourg Duo

This recital of all contemporary music provided a wide variety of styles within the modern medium. Benjamin Lulich of Cal State – Fullerton performed Five Easy Pieces by Bacewicz, which turned out to be not so aptly named. Lulich’s fast tempos provided for a lively interpretation. As a special treat Lulich performed the second movement of Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes.  This charming and recognizable movement was performed with great energy and style.

One of the highlights of all the conference performances was the Luxembourg Duo. Sebastien Duguet (clarinet) and Simone Weber (bass clarinet) began their portion of the program with Meeting by Alfred Prinz. From Ms. Weber’s first note, I was struck by her carefully shaped and beautifully refined bass playing. Each note took on special meaning. Sebastien Duguet executed the work’s many dangerously high entrances with grace and perfection. His smooth connections between wide intervals were especially noted in the first movement of Gunther Schuller’s Duo Sonata. Duguet masterfully performed the tricky arpeggiated flourishes of the second movement. Jonathan Russell’s KlezDuo finished this portion of the program, a tasty work more understated than most of his compositions for various clarinet ensembles. The Luxembourg Duo presented this work with great authentic style, yet had a refinement not often heard in the Klezmer setting. The extremely high level of communication demonstrated by this duo throughout the program was thrillingly evident during the last note of their performance — a tremolo that started slow, sped up, and ended perfectly together, with exact synchronization. The performers achieved this feat by facing each other and following the movement of their fingers. Bravo Luxembourg Duo for a spell-binding performance!

–Notes by Melissa Bowles Snavely
Melissa Bowles Snavely holds degrees in performance and music education from The Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins, Shenandoah Conservatory, and James Madison University. She currently teaches and performs in the Washington DC area.

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Filed under Day 4, Lagniappe Recital, Performances

Lagniappe Recital: Ackerman-Phillips-Carter

Phil&friendsThe first performer on this morning’s concert was Timothy Phillips (Troy University), accompanied by Adam Blackstock (marimba) with Lisa Canning conducting a pop-up interview prior to his performance. It was most interesting to hear about his work in developing the Troy Clarinet Day, and through his recently syndicated radio show, Clarinet Corner (episodes currently available online via soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/timclarinet). Phillips performed an interesting work inspired by Sylvia Plath’s poetry for clarinet and marimba. Originally for saxophone and marimba, the composer, L.Mark Lewis, adapted it at Dr. Phillips’ request. The first movement was a real romp, featuring excited marimba playing by Adam Blackstock. Phillips sounded particularly lovely in the second movement, as his first entrance seemed to effortlessly emerge from the marimba sound. The unusual pairing of these instruments was really interesting and enjoyable. The mellowness of the marimba truly complimented and supported Phillips’ dynamic clarinet playing.

The final piece, Hietor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras, was performed by David and Angela Carter (both of the Tulsa Symphony), with Katherine White (mezzo soprano), Ricardo Coelho de Souza (vibraphone) and Christine Souza (marimba). This interesting instrumentation brought this familiar piece to new life. Particularly of note was the sensitive playing by David Carter (clarinet), and the lovely support and leading of the bass line by Angela Carter (bass clarinet). Their sounds melded together well, sounding as one. Throughout both movements, the great interplay of parts and excellent communication between performers was appreciated.

–Notes by Nora Shaffer
 Nora Shaffer,  a recent DePaul University graduate (CER ‘14, MM ‘12), is a passionate performer and dedicated teacher in the ChicagoLand area. Additionally, she is Principal and E-flat Clarinetist with the Lake Effect Clarinet Quartet.

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Filed under Day 4, Performances, Recital

Shared Recital: Stephan Vermeersch and Jacques Merrer

MerrerRecitalIt appears bass clarinet is the new black when it comes to new music. Stephan Vermeersch performed four very different yet very new and exciting works featuring the instrument during his shared recital at 4:00 p.m. in Shaver Theatre, Saturday. The first, Eric Honour’s Quirk for Bass Clarinet and Computer, made audiences want to get up and dance, wondering  if DJs would soon begin lugging basses to their gigs, along with turntables and other electronica.

Vermeersch played along with a click track, executing slap tonguing passages and other extended techniques as the piece jived through a catchy prerecorded hip hop beat, along with a bevy of distortions and computer-generated sound effects. Audience members recognized the sound of a record scratching on the prerecorded track, whereas the distorted bass clarinet sound was reminiscent of the Mario Brothers Nintendo game circa 1992 or alien-esque sounds à la The X-Files. At other times, it was hard to tell which sounds were acoustic, which were distortions and which were prerecorded. Vermeersch was truly in his element, executing a flawless rendition.

When introducing the next two pieces, Vermeersch charmed the audience by divulging that the two men to be performing with him were his soul mates. He played Dan Becker’s Better Late for Two Bass Clarinets with Richard Nunemaker, which started out in perfect unison, gradually broke apart into a telegraphing, minimalist riff resembling a skipping record, and culminated in a warmhearted high five and hug between the two friends. Rocco Parisi joined Vermeersch for Marc Mellits’s bluesy Black for Two Bass Clarinets next.

Vermeersch ended with the U.S. premier of his own composition, WE for Bass Clarinet and 5 Desk Bells, published just this year. Flying through harmonics, slap tonguing and other extended techniques with circular breathing to keep up the momentum, Vermeersch tapped the five desk bells—each one a different color, like a child’s glockenspiel—with his left foot. A true test of coordination on top of the skill it took to simply play the bass clarinet the way Vermeersch did, WE held the audience captivated.

The second half of the recital showcased the other auxiliary instrument we all know and love, the E-flat (and D) clarinet. Jacques Merrer played three baroque transcriptions of works by Vivaldi, Albinoni and Johann Melchior Molter with a sweet sound as his faithful collaborator, Dianne Frazer, kept steady time on the harpsichord. The music was a welcome change from the newer, albeit beautiful, music that audience members had been enjoying the rest of the week up to that point. With performances of works hot off the presses and classics predating the clarinet, this recital proved to be an interesting look at the chronological bookends of music.

–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.

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Filed under Day 4, Performances, Recital

Lagniappe Recital: Berberian-Hunt-Berti

Ms. Berberian opens the recital with a mournful and languishing piece called Oror (Lullaby) by Hampartzoum Berberian. Interjections of brilliant technical runs punctuate a mostly subdued texture.  Dreamily, a rhapsodic opening leads to more energetic technique in the first movement of Armenian Stirring by Joseph Spaniola. The middle movement is another somber Oror, and the last movement, Through the Darkness, A Light, gradually grows out of the somewhat solemn atmosphere and ends on a joyous and triumphant note.

Mr. Hunt performs two pieces on bass clarinet. The first is unaccompanied, Saeta by Alvaro Bertrand. Mr. Hunt showcases his formidable bass chops, switching easily from barely audible pianissimos to forceful blurs of arpeggios. The next piece features Ms. Myers as narrator for Allan Bank’s Fantasy Variations on the Turkish Lady. She reads an exciting Turkish tale of the high seas, prison, and love, with bass accompaniment. Or is the story the accompaniment to the bass? At times when the story and bass both grow agitated and intense it becomes difficult to follow both at the same time. The addition of spoken word provides a distinct contrast to a bass clarinet and bassoon duet.

Mr. Berti continues with Chips Off the ‘Ol Block by Eric Mandat, displaying extended techniques including some truly gorgeous multiphonics and a delightful swinging flutter tongue section. Next is Sonata for Bass Clarinet and Piano by Arthur Gottschalk. Sharp, short piano chords immediately set up a quick and agitated atmosphere, starkly different from much of the music in this recital. This vibrant music leaves Mr. Berti unable to stand still; he dances and bounces next to the piano as he effortlessly blazes through franticly difficult technical passages. The second movement, Motet – Ancient Incantations, Mr. Berti slowly drones with a beautiful, lyrical sound. The finale Green Dolphy Street Boogie is upbeat and lively. Ms. Andrist (piano) at time claps, as well as playing with one hand and slapping the piano with the other, while Mr. Berti occasionally stomps and snaps his fingers. Together they form a bass clarinet, piano, percussion quartet! Near the end Mr. Berti jumps with both feet, gaining considerable altitude, and landing with a resounding thud that provides both an amusing and rhythmically appropriate effect for this movement.  The piece closes with a dazzling riff soaring up and down the range of the instrument, a spectacular end to the concert!

–Notes by Sam Davies
Sam Davies recently completed his first year of DMA study with Dr. Guy Yehuda at Michigan State University. At MSU Davies can be heard performing with the Wind Symphony, Symphony Orchestra, chamber ensembles, and new student compositions.

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Filed under Day 3, Lagniappe Recital, Performances

LPO Sectional Recital

Thursday morning, section members of the Louisiana Philharmonic presented a recital showcasing their auxiliary specialties. Bass clarinetist John Reeks performed the premiere of William O. Smith’s LINES for Bass Clarinet. The seven movements provided quite an adventure through the world of extended techniques.  Effects in the first movement alone included growls, singing through the horn, and abundant use of the flutter tongue. Surprisingly, this piece utilized two bass clarinets in different configurations (one conventional and the other separated in two pieces). The movements alternated on these new “instruments.” A mouthpiece was inserted into the bottom joint and a metal plunger added to the bell for the second movement, producing a brassy, almost trumpet-like sound. The second surprising use of the instrument called for the mouthpiece to be placed into the upper joint (without a neck). This configuration produced a haunting other-worldly sound, sometimes playful like the underwater sounds of dolphins. Overall, the piece was brilliantly performed by Mr. Reeks, but due to its highly experimental nature (plus the need for TWO bass clarinets) I doubt the piece will be performed very often in the future.

Next, LPO E-flat clarinetist Stephanie Thompson wowed us from her first entrance with a full-bodied, tonally rich sound on the E-flat. Dankner’s Concerto for E-Flat Clarinet provided a vehicle for Thompson’s beautiful tone, with sweeping romantic melodies exploiting the entire range of the instrument. A dramatic and difficult cadenza led to a fiery and caffeinated ending. Although only one movement, this concerto charmingly leads the listener through a full range of emotions and is a gem in the E-flat repertoire that I hope to hear more often!

Finally, LPO Principal Clarinetist Christopher Pell provided a musically mature interpretation of Weber’s Grand Duo. Despite his young age – he holds this position at the age of 22 – Pell demonstrated a thorough understanding of the score with all its interactions between the instruments. His sound blended (almost too well) with the piano and his intonation was especially appreciated in the slow second movement where the pitch in the clarion register tends to ride high. The long sweeping operatic lines that are Weber’s hallmark contrasted nicely with the technical sections in this performance, where Pell always took care to show musical intent within the technique. Kudos also to pianist Audrey Andrist for her flawless performance of this most difficult repertoire.

–Notes by Melissa Bowles Snavely
Melissa Bowles Snavely holds degrees in performance and music education from The Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins, Shenandoah Conservatory, and James Madison University. She currently teaches and performs in the Washington DC area.

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Filed under Day 2, Performances, Recital

I.C.A. Board Recital

Left to Right: Stephan Vermeersch, Tod Kerstetter, Keith Koons, Caroline Hartig, Maxine Ramey, John Cipolla, Lisa Canning.

Left to Right: Stephan Vermeersch, Tod Kerstetter, Keith Koons, Caroline Hartig, Maxine Ramey, John Cipolla, Lisa Canning.

I.C.A. President John Cipolla opened the board recital with repose and respect, honoring the young performers injured and lost in an accident the previous evening.  In one accord the room was silent and reflective, lifting the victims and their families up in prayer and meditation.  Without delay, Lisa Canning gave the opening address, reminding the room of the festival’s theme, entrepreneurship.  Her words were inspiring, urging current musicians to “be a beginner [again]…be vulnerable [and embrace] new thoughts for a new day.”  We all have other gifts to be combined with our clarinet for “it is not the only tool needed to build a house.”  The musical medium is for more than the performer but also the inventor, businessmen and women, teachers, and advocates.  Canning encouraged musicians to be ambassadors for the arts as they enter, and I might add, keep the arts.

Following the address, we once again heard from John Cipolla, the day’s first performer.  He performed The Voice of the Onion by Kenneth Berger, assisted by Zachary Lopes on piano.  The unity in their tutti passages was full of color, accentuating the jazz overtones within Berger’s work. No surprise as Berger is at home writing in the jazz idiom and the depth that Cipolla performs.

Immediately following, Caroline Hartig took stage, lightening the seriousness of performance with a small quip before performing Carlo Pedini’s L’Acciarino Di Weber per clarinetto solo.  Her lines were fluid and her presence commanded your attention.  The audience was so delighted with her execution, premature applause interrupted the final phrase of playful and impressive flourishes leaving her tickled and assured of the undeniable sparkle in her performance.

In a brief departure from treble sonorities, Tod Kerstetter took the stage with bass clarinet in hand to play Roger Jannotta’s transcription of Improvisation on “God Bless the Child” by Eric Dolphy.  Kerstetter captured the thrill and nuance of improvisation with his fluid technique and raucous interjections of strength and power.  One can only imagine there will be a flood of young clarinetists seeking out more bass clarinet repertoire in their training because of it.

Revisiting more traditional roots, Donald Oehler (clarinet), Keith Koons (basset horn) and Seong Eun Kim (piano) presented their interpretation of Concertpiece No. 2 in D Minor by Felix Mendelssohn.  Being arranged for many instrumentations, it was refreshing to hear the piece brought back to its origins, showing the depth, color, flexibility of the basset horn.

Veterans of collaborative performance, The Sapphire Trio (Maxine Ramey-clarinet, Margaret Baldridge-violin, Jody Graves-piano) performed the first movement of Serenade for Three by Peter Schickele.  Pristine in execution, the audience marveled at the communicative power and ease at which the group performs.  Established in the late ’90s, The Sapphire Trio has had many notable performances, making ClarinetFest2014 one of many stops in their highly successful career as chamber musicians and entrepreneurs.

The recital ended with the same Bagatelle for Solo Clarinet (2004) by Alexei Pavlyuchuk performed by Stephan Vermeersch.  The frenetic work was full of excitement and fire, making the percussive and punctuated slap tongue of the final note seem misplaced, yet strikingly satisfying in the textural juxtaposition.  The necessity of a new music recital with various types of ensembles and contrasting instrumentations cannot be overlooked for an entrepreneurial conference, and this recital unabashedly embraced the diversity.

–Notes by Melissa Morales
Melissa Morales is a master’s student at DePaul University studying with Julie DeRoche and Larry Combs.  She currently teaches at The People’s Music School and performs with The Candid Concert Opera’s Orchestra Nova and the Chicago Symphonic Winds.

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by | July 31, 2014 · 9:09 am