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TREASURES FOR CLARINET AND PIANO
CHARLES WEST, Clarinet
SUSAN GRACE, Piano
The four short French works, Canzonetta, Petite Piece, Fille aux chevaux de lin, and Piece en forme de habanera have more in common than their brevity. All three composers studied at the Paris Conservatory at very young ages—Debussy and Pierne entering at ten and eight, and Ravel at the advanced age of fourteen. Debussy and Pierne were born within a year of each other in 1862 and 1863, and Pierne and Ravel died in 1937.
Debussy’s Petite Piece was composed in 1910 at a time when he was involved in numerous conducting engagements: that year in Paris, Vienna, and Budapest, and the following year in Turin. This short work was used as a sightreading piece for the Conservatory’s annual concours, just as his more famous Premiere Rhapsodie has several times been the required prepared piece. Dating from the same year was Debussy’s first book of twelve preludes for piano, in which Fille aux chevaux de lin (Maid with the Flaxen Hair) is found. The transcription of this work is by Conservatory professor Gaston Hamelin, who knew Debussy and who has also contributed excellent didactic works to the clarinet’s literature.
Ravel was regarded by most contemporary French critics as a talented disciple of Debussy, although the harmonic languages differ in important ways: Debussy’s use of the whole tone scale and resulting augmented harmonies was much more pervasive than the younger Ravel's Piece en forme de habanera predates the two Debussy works by onIy three years and is here transcribed from the original vocalise.
Canzonetta, by Gabriel Pierne, is found in music libraries in many academies and schools today, and is a work that clarinetists often overlook. Yet if is a work of uncommon attractiveness. Even after many years of study and performance, one’s return to this childhood friend is a warm homecoming experience rewarded by the discovery of graceful lines stated with the utmost simplicity. Pierne's dual background as a pianist and organist reflects clearly in the piano accompaniment, contrasting the outer sections’ piano-like writing with the more organ-Iike center section.
Most wind musicians outside France know Eugene Bozza for his wind chamber music, but upon examination of his output, one finds much more including two ballets, three operas, four symphonies, and a number of other orchestral and choral works. Born in Nice in 1905, Bozzo is an accomplished violinist, composer, and conductor. From 1934 to 1948 he conducted at the Opera-Comique in Paris and in 1951 he was appointed Director of the Ecole Nationale de Musique in Valenciennes. Bucolique dates from the 1940’s and resembles many of the mid-Twentieth Century French chamber works in its melodic fluency, elegance of structure and idiomatic writing. The opening section is fairly free in the style of an accompanied cadenza, followed by a large solo cadenza that leaves little question about Bozza's upbringing as a violinist. A slow section is followed by a perky scherzo, ending abruptly on the third beat of the final 3/8 measure.
Although Weiner's Peregi verbunk dates from only 1951 , a composition date within the last half of the Nineteenth Century might better fit its style. Weiner resisted the compositional innovations of Stravinsky and Bartok, remaining essentially a Romantic while, to certain extent, sharing nationalistic concerns with his countrymen Bartok and Kodaly.
This work is published for the violin, viola, or clarinet and shares a flare for the virtuostic with the Caprices of Pagannini. Marked tempo di Csardas, it is essentially an A-B-A form with a highly ornamented return of A and a cadenza. As an interesting aside, many years prior to Peregi verbunk, Weiner won a Schunda Prize for Magyar abrand (Hungarian Fantasy), for tarogato (a saxophone-like Hungarian instrument built by W.J. Schunda) and cimbalom (a large dulcimer used by Hungarian gypsies). One hears the nationalism of the earlier work in full bloom in this short recruiting dance.
The waltz theme of Hillandale Waltzes appears several times in the works of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, including as the final variation of a set for oboe or C clarinet and piano. Pianist of the Vronsky and Babin two-piano team, Victor Babin began where Hummel finished, writing eight waltz variations which, though spanning the emotional range from sad to brilliant and joyous, never lose their delecious sense of humor in movements named “somber,” “of good humor,” “elegant,” or “forgotten.” Born in Russia, Babin went to the U.S. via Berlin and settled in Cleveland before the Second World War. He became Director of the Cleveland Institute, and split his time in later years between Cleveland and Santa Fe. After his passing in 1972, this work fell temporarily out of print. Clarinetists and audiences have rediscovered it, and it is now enjoying a growing number of performances worldwide.
Erwinn, fantasia for clarinet, is typical of a broad category of Nineteenth Century works whose penchant for pyrotechnic display casts it under a "virtuoso" rubric. Not unlike the piano works of Liszt, the violin works of Fritz Kreisler or even other clarinet works by Weber and others, Erwinn exists so that its performer can display the best of his technique (if not depth of musical understanding!). An abundance of florid cadenzas, a romantic melody in grand operatic stlye with its skittering variation and a pompous polonaise are woven together in this not-too serious musical diversion.
- - notes by Charles West.
The recorded perspective of the instruments in this recording is close... As though the 9' Hamburg Steinway and the clarinet are being played for you in your living room. The actual recording was made at the great room at Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch, with its incredibly low noise floor and fully adjustable acoustics.
To capture a clean, dynamic, and harmonically rich instrumental presentation, a pair of Shoeps Omni microphones were employed. The microphones' signals were amplified by two superb pure class-A microphone preamps custom-built for Wilson Audio by John Curl. MIT cable carried the balanced line level signal to Wilson Audio's UltramasterTM 3O ips analog recorder. Subsequent digital master tapes were made through the Pygmy A/D converter on a Panasonic SV-3700. Playback reference monitoring was performed on Wilson Audio WATT ll/ Puppies, driven by a Spectral DMA-5O amplifier through MIT CVT Terminator cables.
|1. Clarinet Sonatine: I. Allegro|
|2. Clarinet Sonatine: II. Largo|
|3. Clarinet Sonatine: III. Prestissimo|
|4. Petite pièce, L. 120|
|6. Canzonetta, Op. 19|
|7. Hillandale Waltzes|
|8. Peregi verbunk, Op. 40|
|9. Préludes, Book 1, L. 117: No. 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin (Arr. for Clarinet & Piano)|
|11. Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera, M. 51|