Report by Melissa Morales
The final evening concert for ClarinetFest® 2016 took place Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. in the Kansas Lied Center Auditorium. The concert was hosted by Buffet Crampon, one of the festival’s platinum sponsors. Before the performances began, President and CEO Francois Kloc gave an encouraging talk about the power of music and the community we all belong to. His address was kind, inspiring, and laced with humor, warming the audience for the thrilling performances to come.
The evening featured several Buffet artists during the evening and all gave rousing performances as the conference began to draw to a close. The first performance was by principal clarinet of the Paris National Opera Orchestra Philippe Cuper and the ClarinetFest® chamber orchestra led by David Neely. Cuper gave a world premiere performance of Alexandre Rydin’s 2015 work Concerto for Clarinet. Cuper once again played with incredible displays of musicality and virtuosity.
Jonathan Gunn and pianist Ellen Sommer then took to the stage to perform Widor’s Introduction et Rondo, Op. 72. Gunn’s performance was superb, from the opening cadenza-like passages to the flourishes and strong, final cadence. Gunn played with sensitivity and character, bringing new life into the classic French repertoire.
Next on stage was French clarinetist Pierre Genisson. He was accompanied by the indomitable Ellen Sommer. In an interesting choice, Genisson chose to perform Andante et Allegro by Ernest Chausson on the newly released Prodige clarinet from Buffet. The student-model clarinet did not seem to hinder Genisson’s performance as he navigated another of the clarinet’s great French works with ease. He played with beautiful lyricism throughout, with no noticeable intonation or mechanical issues, showing the great craftsmanship of the new instrument and musicianship of Genisson.
After the Chausson, Genisson was joined on stage by André Moisan of Montreal. The two clarinetists performed Mendelssohn’s Concert Piece No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 113 on clarinet and basset horn respectively. Maintaining the integrity of the instrumentation, the two gave an inspiring performance, displaying the capabilities of the instruments (both a student model and auxiliary) and did so without any hint of duress or uneasiness.
After a brief intermission Eddy Vanoosthuyse, Philip Kramp (viola) and Ellen Sommer joined the stage for a performance of Mozart’s Trio in E-flat Major, K. 498. Programmed to be performed on the works 235th birthday, the trio played with clarity and ease, giving Mozart a superb celebratory performance. The ensemble played with such refinement, the end of their performance drew an audible “wow” from several within the audience.
Next, bass clarinet ensemble Sauro Berti, J. Lawrie Bloom, Alcides Rodriguez, Gunn and Moisan played several selections including Ave verum corpus by Mozart, Estampas Criollas by Beatriz Lockhart (featuring Rodriguez on ukulele), and Black by Mark Mellits. From the pure sound of Mozart to the tight, hypnotic rhythms of Mellits, the bass clarinet ensemble played with great command of the instruments and genre. The Lockhart, arranged by Jorge Montilla, provided a slight reprieve from the heavy repertoire of the day. Rodriguez excited the clarinet-filled hall with his playful ukulele playing, eliciting a string of giggles that washed over the audience at their final chord.
Closing the evening extravaganza was another great clarinet quartet accompanied by pianist Ekaterina Tangarova: clarinetists Cuper, Vanguel Tangarov, Moisan, and David Gould. The quartet played “Bacchanale” from Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saens. The familiar work arranged for the ensemble by Matt Johnston was played expertly with great attention to phrasing and articulation. The melodies whirled through the group, each displaying their virtuosity and Johnston’s intimacy with clarinet ensembles. The audience beckoned the group back several times with a standing ovation, showing their enthusiastic support and appreciation for their musicianship.
To close the conference, Buffet announced the winner from their contest for a new Tradition clarinet. Kloc pulled Stephan Brandon’s name from a hat, and awarded him his prize.
Melissa Morales served as adjunct Music Education faculty at DePaul University for 2015-2016 as well as clarinet faculty and project manager at The People’s Music School from 2013-2016. She currently serves as the Director of Education for the Chicago Symphonic Winds and performs with the Chicago Summer Opera.