Reflections – The Clarinet
Richard Stoltzman, clarinet; Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by George Manahan (Perlongo, Lay, Iannaccone, and Stiller) and by Jerzy Swoboda (Goodwin). Daniel James Perlongo: Sunburst (1995); Keith Lay: Earth Caoine (1995); Gordon Goodwin: Paraph (1996); Anthony Iannaccone: Concertante for Clarinet and Orchestra (1995); Andrew Stiller: Procrustean Concerto (1994). MMC RECORDINGS MMC 2105. Total time 61:39. (distributed by Albany Music)
To date, world renown clarinetist Richard Stoltzman has more than 50 recordings to his credit, is an Emmy award winner and a two-time Grammy award winner, was soloist with virtually every major orchestra in the world, and instigated the commissioning and premiere of numerous new works for the clarinet. He has been one of my very top favorite musicians eve since I started following his career when I heard incredibly innovative repertoire on his first LP issued in 1973.
Stolzman’s vision for our instrument earned him a place in households all over the globe, as he allowed the clarinet to cross over a multitude of genres including classical, jazz, Latin, pop, klezmer, new-age, contemporary and others. He gave the first clarinet recitals in the histories of both the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie hall, became the first wind player to be awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 1986, and recorded a hauntingly beautiful solo on popular songwriter Judy Collins’ Inner Voices. Quoting Collins on a television interview in 1989: “Richard’s tone is extraordinary and he plays like an angel.” Stoltzman explained his viewpoint during the same interview: “Rules are meant to be broken. Any musician makes his or her own rules. Mozart, Brahms and Stravinsky broke new grounds with their innovations.”
A fervent performer of new repertoire, Stoltzman serves us well with relatively unknown but exquisite music by five of today’s American composers. All composed during the last decade, each piece in this commanding list deserves to be adopted and become part of our repertoire for clarinet with orchestra. All works are premiere recordings.
The works include an array of styles combining melody and dissonance, with a distinct American compositional sound throughout. The CD is beautifully done in every detail: the repertoire, the interpretation, the sound engineering, the fantastic sound of the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra directed by George Manahan and Jerzy Swoboda, and the incontestable virtuosity of Richard Stoltzman.
Daniel James Perlongo (b. 1942) earned his B.M. and M.M. degrees at the University of Michigan, where he studied with George Balch Wilson, Leslie Bassett and Ross Lee Finney. With a Fullbright-Hayes Fellowship, he continued his studies in Rome with Goffredo Petrassi. Perlongo has received numerous awards, including the Prix de Rome and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and awards from the American Academy-National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Perlongo teaches composition, theory and jazz studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Sunburst is a colorful and multifaceted dialogue between clarinet and orchestra, with complex orchestration involving each instrument within the orchestra, including a busy percussion section. The work earns its title with bursting interlocking invigorating musical exchanges between soloist and orchestra.
Keith Lay (b. 1958) started his career as a saxophonist and earned a M.M. at the University of Akron. He composed works for symphonic band, jazz orchestra, and worked in commercial music. He is well known as a composer of electronic music, and he joined the faculty at the Full Sail School of Film, Art, Design, Music and Media in Florida in 1990.
Earth Caoine, (Caoine, an Irish word meaning a wailing for the departed) is a tone poem with the clarinet moaning and glissing up and down in the high register within a heart wrenching tapestry of tonal and atonal colors. I can imagine this music would fit just right as film music as well as in the concert hall. Stoltzman’s virtuoso glissando technique is so advanced that he makes the listener actually not notice how intricate it is to perform this piece, not to mention that the work’s depth also makes the listener figuratively forget to breathe during the entire 8 minutes and 58 seconds.
Gordon (Dick) Goodwin is known both for classical and jazz works. Commercial music to opera, jazz band, and symphony orchestra works. He graduated in theory and composition from the University of South Carolina and has received several writer awards from ASCAP.
The composer explains in the liner notes that he composed Paraph for clarinetist Doug Graham (principal clarinetist with the South Carolina Philharmonic and professor at the University of South Carolina until 2006) who used to play a signature left-hand chromatic staccato passage to check his reeds. The composer included this passage in the main theme of this bright and powerful work, as well as a Dixieland style four-octave figure he once heard Graham play. The title Paraph was aptly chosen, as it means a flourish under a penned signature. Stoltzman’s virtuosity is displayed throughout the piece’s extreme high registers and repeated staccato passages.
Anthony Iannaccone (b. 1943) studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Vittorio Giannini, Aaron Copland and David Diamond. Early in his career, he taught part-time at the Manhattan School and performed as an orchestral violinist. His music is performed by major orchestras and professional chamber ensembles in the U.S. and abroad. He is an active conductor of both new music and standard orchestral repertory. Until recently, he was on the faculty of Eastern Michigan University.
Concertante for Clarinet and Orchestra is a musical painting blending dark, light, and agitated moods where both the clarinet and orchestra take center stage. Stoltzman’s famous lyrical playing is featured in many slow sections, culminating in an enthralling dramatic ending featuring riveting staccato passages in the altissimo register.
Andrew Stiller (b. 1946) studied with Lejaren Hiller and Morton Feldman, and earned a doctorate in composition from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Stiller was a member of Lukas Foss’ legendary Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, performing his own and other avant-garde works across the country. Stiller has created musical works in virtually every genre and medium. In 1985, he wrote his critically acclaimed Handbook of Instrumentation, published by the University of California Press.
Procrustean Concerto is in two movements. The first, “Interview with the Dissidents: Sestina,” contains interesting dialogues with a full clarinet section including the minuscule A piccolo, the Eb alto and Bb contrabass, not to mention interesting short solos by instruments such as the alto saxophone, the viola, and the whistle. The title evokes the mythical Procrustes and his infamous modes of torture, which I would rather not describe here. The movement includes a repeated quotation from Berlioz’s Harold in Italy and suggests that in this concerto, too, the orchestra takes on a prominent role, interspersed with breathtakingly difficult passages by the soloist.
The second movement, “Hockets from the Andes,” is lighter in mood and uses a compositional medieval technique called hocket, where different melodic parts are intertwined with alternating notes and rests that entail precise cooperation among the players. The movement opens with a Chilean folk tune followed by variations. The liner notes explain that the original melody was “conceived for divided panpipes,” and that in “many passages, no instrument plays more than one note at a time.” This is my favorite work on the CD because of its folk flavor and grandiose orchestral end result.
We owe a lot to Richard Stoltzman and MMC Recordings for bringing this imposing music to life. I give this recording my top four-out-of-four reeds rating, adding an extra reed for each member of the outstanding Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra clarinet section where each player matches Richard Stoltzman’s magnificent sound to perfection.