Tag Archives: classical music

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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Lagniappe Recital: Quartet Atrivedo-Aleksander-Becraft

The 9:00 Sunday Lagniappe recital in the School of Music Recital Hall featured a variety of chamber ensembles, in combinations both familiar and unfamiliar. It opened with a spirited performance of four Estampas Criollas composed by Beatriz Lockhart, performed by the Quartet Atrivedo. The clarinet quartet played the lilting rhythms of these charming dances with admirable energy, syncopations and cross-rhythms shimmying away under sweet lyrical melodies. This was an altogether enjoyable performance, carried off with panache and style by the four artists: Allison Allum, Emily Kerski, and Mando Ramirez on clarinets and Asa Graf on bass clarinet.

The second group to perform was a wind trio from The University of Tennessee-Martin, an unusual trio of flute, played by Charles Lewis; clarinet, played by Elizabeth Aleksander; and saxophone, played by Doug Owens. The group performed seven short movements by Paul Harvey with charm and grace. The group balanced the three voices beautifully, so that each of the instruments could be clearly heard, and some lovely timbral blends emerged. The Incantation movement, which featured Lewis on alto flute, was especially notable. While each of the players had a chance to step into the spotlight with lovely melodies, the most notable feature of this performance was the wonderfully balanced chamber aesthetic demonstrated by this accomplished ensemble.

The final selection on the program was I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a duo for soprano voice and clarinet by Lori Laitman, performed by Laura Storm and Steven Becraft of Henderson State University. Storm explained that the texts are from a collection of poems written by children interred in German concentration camps during World War II, but she noted that in spite of their tragic circumstances, many of the poems are full of life and joy. Storm declaimed the texts clearly, with a rich, velvety vocal tone, matched by Becraft with a sound that was focused and warm in all its registers. The songs evoked a variety of moods, from the dance-like Yes, That’s The Way Things Are to the ominous quality of The Old House. Lighter moments, as in Birdsong, where the two voices were braided together in their high register, contrasted with darker ones, like the low bell-like tones and static vocal line that opened the final song. Becraft and Storm brought riveting drama to this powerful set of songs, bringing the concert to a contemplative close.

–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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Think Outside the Concert Hall: Building your Musical Enterprise with Kliment Krylovskiy

Kliment Krylovskiy of the Zodiac Trio and Zodiac Music Academy & Festival led an evocative class on entrepreneurship.  With a background in PR and marketing, his thoughts on building an artistic presence were especially compelling.  “Every performance, no matter how big or small, should be seen as an opportunity to remind the musical community that you exist.”  Krylovskiy personally does this with visually appealing  newsletter that he sends to an extensive mailing list he’s built over the years.  He also recommended maintaining a regular website, using social media, and using traditional press releases with media outlets. These forms of communication should be used to inform your audience anytime something beneficial happens for you (aside from a press release).  This will keep you constantly in the mind of others, exactly where you want to be.

Another important aspect is your performance reputation.  To expand a performance schedule musicians should seek out venues (churches, community centers, libraries, unique spaces, etc), apply to perform at showcases (such as CMA), contact presenters using the Musical America database, contact presenters from other artists’ schedules, and self-produce concerts.  One way this can be done is through collaboration.  Collaborating with composers can be an artistically fulfilling experience as well as leading to artistic residencies.  Setting a long-term goal or project for yourself could also be another tactic to expand your schedule.  This could include anything from having a concert series to hosting a summer festival.

As your organization grows, Krylovskiy highly encouraged developing educational programming.  Many grants are offered for community programming, and in his experience, often times groups with at least some educational initiative will be  chosen to perform at a festival or showcase over an ensemble who focuses solely on artistic endeavors.  In a very practical sense, educational programming is a way to insure you have a future audience, add income, and make yourself more marketable to presenters.

–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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Buffet Crampon Gala Concert

10556216_857259564285448_2699921473091380692_n[2]On the final evening at ClarinetFest 2014, we enjoyed incredible works for clarinet and orchestra.  Alcides Rodriguez and Gabor Varga give a jovial opening to the concert playing Krommer’s Concerto for Two Clarinets and Orchestra, Op. 35.  With bubbling lines and a beautiful blend, the duo played with poise and grace. The two clarinetists displayed great sensitivity to throughout the second movement, playing with great control and intonation over a subdued Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.

Following was Ralph Skiano with his poignant interpretation of Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie.  The clarinet weaved its way in and around the orchestra with incredible ease, wafting through elongated phrases and impish flourishes.  In these moments the interplay between soloist and and the orchestra’s principal winds was delightful, particularly with the oboist.

Taking the stage, Greg Raden performed Weber’s Concerto No. 1.  His first note stilled the room with his pure sound floating high above the orchestra.  The third movement was lively with delicate inflections and a variety of colors which made for a lovely contrast between themes.

Antonio Saiote gave a lively performance of Canongia’s Clarinet Concert No. 3 in E-flat.  With wild technical demands, Saiote took command of the stage and played with abandon.  Taking some artistic license, his virtuosic performance of Canongia’s work was a memorable performance from the night.

In a last-minute change of performers, Robert DiLutis took the stage instead of the programmed David Drosinos to perform Ben-Haim’s Pastoral Variee for Clarinet, Harp and Strings.  A consummate professional and profound musician, none would have assumed he was not the originally programmed artist.  In many respects, it was the most impressive performance of the evening.

A full, lush string section cued the start of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, and the final piece of the evening. Paul Cigan delivered an inspiring performance of our cornerstone work.  His pianos seemed to draw you in, peering into intimate moments of repose.

–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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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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Lagniappe Recital: Fraioli String Quartet-McCowen Clarinet Quartet

To open the recital, Mr. Fraioli performed the world premiere of his composition Suggestioni for Clarinet and String Quartet with the Ritz Chamber Players.  At times quite jazzy, this piece moved through several different moods such as a lovely unison duet with the clarinet and first violin, a poignant counterpoint duet between clarinet and cello, and a sustained and lyrical clarinet line against constant pizzicati from the quartet. At one point Mr. Fraioli moved so excitedly he almost flew out of his chair! As the piece came to an end, he tore through virtuosic passages embellished with several well-placed smears. A final series of sharply accented chords led the listeners to expect a calculated cadential sequence, but instead, the quartet stopped as Mr. Fraioli held a single note, stood up, and walked off stage.   Still playing behind closed doors, his sound faded to niente, a delightful and unexpected conclusion!

Next, John P. McCowen’s Clarinet Quartet No. 1 was performed, from memory, by the composer with Mr. Emch, Mr. Fitzgerald, and Mr. Goodman. It opened with barely audible notes moving slowly in and out of the texture, creating a feeling of swimming through a calm, unbroken lake of sound. The quartet began to gingerly add pitch bends and quavering trills. Use of multiphonics created the illusion of electrical interference or feedback, and with an expanded range, dynamic contrast, and harsher, growling timbres the music vacillated in and out of intensity. Eventually calmed, the placid levels suddenly end. Throughout the work, the group stayed as still as possible, adding a visual element to the performance. At the end, and desperate for movement, they quickly bounded out of their seats, breaking the spell created by this intriguing piece.

–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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Douglas Graham Tribute Recital

Former students of Douglas Graham's performing in his tribute recital.

Former students of Douglas Graham’s performing in his tribute recital.

Sunday morning, ClarinetFest was awakened by glorious sounds in the SOM Recital Hall with students of Douglas Graham presenting him with a tribute recital at 8:00 a.m. Graham served as principal clarinetist of the South Carolina Philharmonic and taught at the University of South Carolina.

The last movement of the Lalo Piano Trio was performed with LSU pianist Willis Delony. He was joined by Jeremy Cohen (clarinet) and Wendy Cohen (flute). Both played with beautiful depth of tone and a wonderfully expressive dynamic range. Delony played with great integrity and flowing lines.

David Gresham’s performance of Karel Husa’s Three Studies showed excellent execution of the clarinet techniques of the 20th century while maintaining lyricism and fun. Gresham took the third movement with a firm resolve!
Peregi Verbunk by Weiner was performed by Mark Brandon with Willis Deloney.  These performances highlighted one of the strengths of Doug Graham’s teaching: evenness of tone.
Seven Deadly Sins by Goodwin for clarinet and marimba provided the audience with some humor at both the melodic features of the piece and the commentary from the composer. The brevity of the final movement brought about a chuckle from many in the audience. The piece was performed by John Bittle (clarinet) and Matthew Jones (marimba).
David Callaway performed Czardas by Monti. This was a fun and entertaining addition to the program, especially for an early Sunday morning.
Don’t be that Way was featured next and performed by Gary Buss and Willis Delony.  Local audiences always love performances by Delony but this pair was a match made in heaven and allowed both performers to sparkle with a charming and comfortable style.
GrahamCanonic Suite for 4 B-flat clarinets by Elliott Carter was performed as a mixed service member ensemble. Performers represented the Air Force, Army, and Navy. The ensemble had a strong finish to an absolutely charming piece.
Students of Douglas Graham combined to present their beloved mentor with a framed photo and message and a closing performance of I’ll be Seeing You, arranged for clarinets by Dick Goodwin. The program was beautifully organized and executed and was a moment of great pride and appreciation for Professor Graham.–Notes by Dr. Mary Alice Druhan
Dr. Mary Alice Druhan is the Associate Professor of Clarinet, Texas A&M University-Commerce and a Buffet performing artist.

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Vandoren Chamber Music Night


In a night of clarinet chamber standards, the audience heard classical masterpieces ranging from Mozart to Mandat.  Master Sergeant Reis McCullough opened the concert with Spohr’s Fantasy and Variations on a Theme of Danzi, Op. 81.  His lively and bubbly tone invigorated

Chris Pell

Chris Pell

the air, filling us with anticipation for the upcoming works.  Starkly contrasting in every way, Chris Pell and the Ritz Chamber Players changed the tone of the evening with Eric Mandat’s 2 teez.  The energy in this piece captured the audience’s attention in a way that changed how one would experience the rest of the concert.  The fragmented lines danced through the ensemble with all musicians playing with excitement and vigor. Bravo indeed to Mr. Pell on his excellent execution of this incredible work.

D.  Ray McClellan and the Ritz Chamber Musicians

D. Ray McClellan and the Ritz Chamber Musicians

Ending the first half of the evening, D. Ray McClellan performed Brahms’s Quintet in B Minor for Clarinet and String Quartet, Op. 115 bringing the night’s attention back to more familiar standards.  His tone and legato was smooth and seamless, and with sensitivity to match, the intimacy of the performance lingered throughout the night. Next, Jon Manasse performed Crusell’s Quartet for Clarinet and Strings in E-flat Major, Op.2, No. 1.  With frequent quips and laughter between Manasse and the Ritz Chamber Players, the audience eased into their seats to enjoy a performance from a clarinetist who never disappoints.

VincentiIn a world premiere, Piero Vincenti performed Claudio De Siena’s Italian Movies for Clarinets (E-flat, B-flat and G Clarinet).  With quotes from The Godfather and rich Italian harmonies, the sweetness of Vincenti’s playing provided another splendid taste of newness to a concert of established standards.  Continuing with Italian works, Henry Jones (piano) and Philippe Cuper (clarinet) gave a superb performance of Carlo Della Giacoma’s Cavaleria Rusticana Fantasia.  Cuper played with excitement and fire, inspiring technical facility, and with a sweet thickness to his tone.

FortezaEnding the concert with Mozart’s Quintet for Strings in A Major, K. 581, Pascul Martinez Forteza gave a sensitive and evocative performance.  His personality sparkled with each phrase leading the audience through Mozart with ease.  In a day filled with excellence in abundance, this was one of yesterday’s highlights.

–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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Lagniappe Recital: Lima-Palmer-Card

2014-08-02A Brazilian ensemble opened the recital program with performances of a variety of arrangements by Daniel Dalarossa, Reinaldo Lima, and Renato Leme. Ensemble members include Reinaldo Lima, Henrique Candido, Renato Leme, and Heber Pequeno who were all sponsored by Choromusic. The audience seemed to enjoy the variety of musical genres adapted for the ensemble, from Bach Prelude to Partita and from Charlie Parker to traditional Brazilian tunes.

Katherine Palmer took stage for the second portion of the recital with works by Peruvian composer, Armando Guevara Ochoa. Katherine introduced his musical style as capable of incorporating sounds of the Andes mountains. This first unaccompanied piece had a variety of styles, from gentle songs to festive dances. Michelle Von Haugg joined Katherine Palmer for Huayno, a delightful and short duo, a Peruvian Dance in 2/4. Lamento Andino, a beautiful trio for voice, clarinet, and piano, concluded Katherine Palmer’s performance on this recital. The performers executed beautifully and it was a wonderful shift in timbre and style.
The final portion of the recital included the last three movements of the Ravel Sonata performed by Patricia Card and Scott Card (cello). The third movement was full of beautiful and lyrical imagery which displayed Patricia Card’s warm tone and control, especially in the clarinet’s chalumeau. The piece had an abundance of challenges for the performers including rhythmic and contrapuntal scoring, long lyrical leaps and biting intervals, all handled with great attention to detail. Congratulations to all of these performers for a very eclectic and energetic program.–Notes by Dr. Mary Alice Druhan
Dr. Mary Alice Druhan is the Associate Professor of Clarinet, Texas A&M University-Commerce and a Buffet performing artist.

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Versatility and Virtuosity: The 21st Century Woodwind Doubler a lecture by Bret Pimentel

In a unique look at the special niche of doubling, Bret Pimentel describes the current trend and expectations associated with this particular career. While doubling is still a very active and demanding profession, greater expectations are being placed on developing even greater skill sets. These can include being required to play and perform on non-traditional instruments at an extremely high virtuosic level.

In preparation to enter this field, one must become familiar with the specific styles of music and seek out the proper training beyond their primary and secondary instruments. By doing so, the musician can truly benefit from this industry. These benefits can lead to greater opportunities as they diversify a musician’s portfolio. In general, should one decide to pursue this career and thrive, musicians should be very aware that doubling skills have greatly increased with the turn of the century, and with its many challenges come great and unexpected rewards.

–Notes By Dr. Victor Chavez, Jr.
Dr. Victor Chavez, Jr. teaches at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville as Lecturer in Clarinet and currently performs with the Tri-Cities Opera Company in Binghamton, New York.

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