ClarinetFest® 2016, Day 1: ICA Board Recital

Report by Jacob Lee

The ICA board members helped kick off the events of Wednesday, August 3 with a diverse potpourri concert.  The event began at noon with Robert Walzel, the artistic director for this year’s festival, giving opening remarks and much welcomed news on parking around campus. Dueling bass clarinetists Tod Kerstetter and Stephan Vermeersch took the stage next with Marc Mellits’ Black, both demonstrating an extraordinary dynamic range despite the piece’s technical and rhythmic demands. Vermeersch immediately followed up with his new composition Synaptic Sketches for unaccompanied B-flat clarinet, a kinetic work with many extended techniques.

Caroline Hartig and pianist Jiung Yoon presented two pieces by Michele Mangani back-to-back. The first, Verdiana (based on the operas of Giuseppe Verdi) literally left a member of the audience breathless, much to the amusement of everyone in the room. The second work was also a transcription, in this case of George Gershwin’s Summertime. Next, the Amicitia Duo, comprised of Denise Gainey and Diane Barger with pianist Mark Clinton, performed the final two movements of Gary Schocker’s Sonata for Two Clarinets and Piano. All three musicians blended beautifully in the “Adagio ma non troppo,” and the light-hearted “Allegro vivo” served as a wonderful compliment.

The concert concluded with two jazz-infused works. Kerstetter returned to the stage (on B-flat) with pianist Amanda Arrington for Philip Parker’s Grooves, an exploration of various diverse idioms ranging from bebop to Bulgarian folk music. John Cipolla and pianist Steven Harlos finished off the recital with Benniana, a composition inspired by Benny Goodman and written by Harlos. The piece opened with “Benny’s Dream,” an appropriately quiet movement with a nice jazzy interlude. The sultry second movement, “Blues Nocturne,” was also quite laid-back, but the action finally took off with the final movement, “Jazz Rondo.”

Jacob Lee received his master’s degree from The Ohio State University and currently works as a freelance performer in the Columbus, OH area. Offstage, Lee has presented original research on French classical-era clarinet works at various gatherings including the American Musical Instrument Society Conference and the ICA Mid-America Festival.

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