Originally published in The Clarinet 49/3 (June 2022).
Printed copies of The Clarinet are available for ICA members.
Book and Music Reviews
Jean-Marc Fessard. The Evolution of the Clarinet. Éditions Billaudot, 2021. €21.74
Jean-Marc Fessard enjoys an impressive international career as a clarinet soloist and chamber musician. He has won numerous competitions, recorded some 30 CDs and served as an adjudicator at prestigious clarinet competitions. He also holds a degree in musicology from the University of Paris. He currently teaches at the Brussels Royal Conservatory. His book The Evolution of the Clarinet was originally published in French but is now out in an English translation by Catherine Piola published by Billaudot. The book is a comprehensive history of the clarinet from ancient times to the present.
Fessard’s book begins with an extensive 37-page history of the clarinet. Unlike many other history books that start with the chalumeau, Fessard chronicles clarinet history from its ancient origins in Egypt, citing its Egyptian ancestor the memet, which dates to 2700 B.C. This is an important inclusion to the literature. Like other history books, it proceeds to discuss important instrument innovators such as Denner, Lefèvre, Müller, Beer and Klosé. There is also a later section on the Oehler and Boehm systems.
Fessard discusses the various composers who made significant contributions to the repertoire throughout the instrument’s evolution and the prominent performers, such as Anton Stadler, who influenced these composers. Unlike other history resources, Fessard includes a section on the influence of jazz and another on extended techniques. The latter section is complete with several pages of useful BÌ clarinet multiphonic and quarter-tone fingerings; a section on one of Fessard’s specialties, bass clarinet, including its evolution, with multiphonic fingerings; and a discussion of the mouthpiece and the reed. Finally, the book is accompanied by a CD of Fessard demonstrating the different clarinet registers and various extended techniques.
The biggest advantage of the book is its convenient paperback size and brief length of 104 pages (most history books are longer, heavy hardbacks). The history section is quite comprehensive. The multiphonic fingerings are also especially useful, as is the accompanying CD, unusual for a history book. There are some disadvantages, however. In addressing so many different areas, not all of which are directly related, there is some imbalance with some topics receiving more attention and others less. Since the book discusses bass clarinet extensively, it would have been useful, for example, to discuss the other auxiliary instruments in further detail, which the book does not do. In the realm of attention to historical details, yes, the origin of the Mozart concerto is a 199-measure sketch for basset horn in G, but the origin of a complete version is for basset clarinet, not basset horn, as is written on p. 31. There are also some translation errors, such as the title of the third section, “Clarinet Making” instead of “Clarinet Manufacturing,” and some grammatical mistakes. The biggest disadvantage is that the table of contents is at the end of the book instead of at the beginning. This fact makes navigating The Evolution of the Clarinet somewhat difficult.
Overall, however, the book is a good historical resource. The fact that it has been written by an accomplished performer as well as musicologist distinguishes it from most other published clarinet history sources.
– Rebecca Rischin
Nico Bertelli. Lo Chalumeau: la Storia, il Repertorio. Nico Bertelli Edizioni Musicali, 2021. Free PDF at www.nicobertelli-clarinet.com
Italian clarinetist Nico Bertelli is known for his performances on chalumeaux and baroque clarinets as well as the research he carries out on their repertoire.
From his website it is possible to download a PDF version of his book on the history of the chalumeau and its repertoire. Bertelli uses a systematic method to study the repertoire, history and development of this fascinating instrument. The method involves collecting all the extant, original compositions and grouping them according to the centers and the courts where the composers wrote music with and for the chalumeau. He includes many music examples throughout the 103-page book. The outcome of this research is a complete and well-documented catalog of these compositions.
Bertelli gives a highly accurate description of the improvements made to the primitive seven-hole chalumeau by Denner, which actually resulted in a new instrument with a charming sound and very good intonation.
Well-described is the propagation and success in central Europe of this improved chalumeau in its golden age between 1710 and 1760. Moreover, there is accurate documentation regarding the repertoire developed in important cultural centers such as Vienna, Hamburg, Venice, Dresden and Darmstadt by renowned composers like Bononcini, Fux, Telemann (who was himself a virtuoso on the chalumeau), Vivaldi, Zelenka and Graupner. The repertoire consists of oratorios, operas, cantatas, sacred arias and concertos where the chalumeau has a solo, concertante or obbligato part. In addition, Bertelli considers practical aspects of the performance on the chalumeau, giving advice on how to play this instrument today.
His book is recommended to not only all professional or amateur players of this unique instrument, but to all musicians. At the moment it is available only in Italian, and we hope that an English translation will be published in the near future.
– Nicola Bulfone
James Rae. Sight Reading – Clarinet: A Progressive Method. Trinity College London Press, 2021. £14.00 paper, £11.25 e-book
Being good at sight reading – is it a question of talent or practice? While a pinch of talent can never hurt, we all know that practice makes us become better, and sight reading is no exception. But it has never been so easy until the publication of James Rae’s newest “grand coup,” a progressive method for sight reading in three books (available in print and as an e-book). It is mainly geared towards students who prepare for a Trinity grade exam, but it works equally well for anyone hoping to improve their sight reading skills.
In the three books, eight different levels (called “grades”) are presented. They are made up of ten lessons each, and multiple test examples are included at the end. Each lesson presents a different focus. There are tips on sight reading, yet also advice on general aspects of clarinet playing. The design of the books is simple, clear and spaced out so that teachers can include personal notes. Clarinetists who want to work on their sight reading skills without a teacher will appreciate the “Think before you play” box for each lesson: like a practice buddy, it gives you valuable directions on how to successfully sight read the exercises of that lesson.
Volume one is designed for the beginning clarinetist. It is mostly in the chalumeau register and presents easy rhythms such as whole, half and quarter notes, tonalities up to one sharp or flat, and simple dynamic markings as well as tongued notes versus legato.
Volume two addresses the intermediate-level student. It includes practice pieces with eighth notes, dotted and swing rhythms, upbeats and tonalities up to two accidentals. A more differentiated articulation (such as staccato, tenuto and accents) is asked.
Volume three is where it becomes interesting for the advanced clarinetist: different meters such as 6/8, 3/8, 9/8 and alla breve are now in the game, as well as frequent changes in the time signature. Dotted rhythms and triplets, expressive markings, different styles such as rock, jazz waltz and bossa nova are practiced, and the pieces move into tonal regions of five sharps and flats.
A big plus of this method is that there is never too much information at once and that newly acquired skills are practiced again a few lessons later. The main reason to get these books if you want to become a pro sight reader, however, is that the practice pieces are incredibly fun to play! The first book is kept simple, but books two and three fully display James Rae’s compositional strength in creating small pieces of pedagogical and musical value. Enjoyment in sight reading music? Mission accomplished!
– Simone Weber
Tom Heimer. The Most Advanced Clarinet Book. Austin Macauley, 2020. £7.99 paper, £3.50 e-book
Tom Heimer has studied with some of the major clarinet pedagogues and has a wide-ranging career of performing, conducting and teaching within various areas of the music profession.
This book is Jeanjean’s Vade Mecum on steroids, and its content substantiates its title’s claim. If there are any awkward and difficult challenges not presented, I missed them. Included are 50 introductory, very practical, directed short exercises dealing with specific clarinet problems of fingering and/or smooth connections with suggestions for practice. Alternate fingerings are shown, ones that might be contrary to normal choice but provide an additional attention to fluidity and coordination. Page 19 presents excellent practice ideas incorporating other materials, ways to alter etudes to create different problems, etc.
The 50 introductory exercises are followed by 27 single-page etudes, with titles indicating the focus of each. They challenge every level of a clarinetist’s skills. Some quote and expand passages from the standard repertoire. A first reading is unlikely to reach the bottom of the page as the difficulties increase. It is more important to discover and deal with individual passages before conquering the whole. Alternate fingerings should be substituted (à la the introductory drills) to develop and control difficult coordination between hands.
Even when “learned” these etudes present problems when coming back to them after a few days. The reading effort is normal in some. In others, fingerings, articulation and rhythmic patterns require a constant focus as there are so many changes in proximity. One cannot predict or anticipate the next pattern and “eyes-brain-message” to fingers/air/embouchure requires total concentration.
The biggest challenge in two of the etudes is the notation of accidentals. The intent of requiring sharp focus and translating these awkward passages into speedy eye-hand pattern recognition is understandable. However, C, E, G is part of our trained history and B-sharp, E, A double flat may be enharmonically equal to the ear but a nightmare to the eye and an unnecessary impediment to the music. A composer would be hard-pressed to find performers willing to play their music when the notation creates another barrier to the learning process. Only the practice room can afford such time. Recommended for all serious players.
– Robert Riseling
Octave Juste. Homéopathie musicale suite in 12 pieces for B-flat clarinet. Gérard Billaudot Éditeur, 2014. €9.92
Octave Juste, used as a witty pseudonym for composer Pierre-Yves Rognin, sets the tone for this imaginative, medium-difficult collection of short, etude-like pieces. Each one-page work is titled after a substance purported to treat a malady. The title and illness pairings include “Chamomilla Vulgaris”/Irritability, “China Rubra”/Tinnitus, “Gelsemium Sempervirens”/Stage Fright and the staccato study “Arnica Montana”/Muscular Fatigue. If those images are not incentive enough to enjoy this musical cure, with these pleasing essays you can also address dizziness, stiff neck, insect bite, emotional stress, hiccup, asthma, mouth ulcers and insomnia with anxiety.
Each piece has a consistent rhythmic groove – often syncopated – a modest top range never exceeding altissimo F and a tonal framework including chromatic inflection. A great variety of articulation patterns complement the frequent syncopated ideas to keep the music fresh from one selection to the next. Students will also have practice performing ritardandi, large leaps, compound meters and a few altissimo notes with fermatas. These fun, unique pieces will be highly motivational for the third-, fourth- or fifth-year player.
– Gregory Barrett
Daniel Perttu. Capricious Variations for solo clarinet. Daniel Perttu, 2013. $15.00.
Daniel Perttu is currently professor of music theory and composition at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. In addition to this piece for solo B-flat clarinet, he has composed several chamber works including clarinet. More information about his works and how to purchase them can be found on his website www.danielperttu.com.
The composer states in the program notes that the title of this piece is a contradiction. “The variation form tends to be a more structured form, whereas the adjective ‘capricious’ suggests a piece that is subject to sudden and unaccountable changes. This piece dances to the tension created by this contradiction.”
The work begins with a brief introduction or fanfare that relaxes into the theme, beginning with a dark, brooding melody. The melody is explored over the course of 10 variations and a coda, changing characters many times. The music is flowing, intense, playful and contemplative.
Each variation has a metronome marking; adhering to those indications will require substantial technical facility. Perttu explores the entire range of the clarinet, with an altissimo B towards the end, and several variations that go up to altissimo A or A-flat.
At just 7 minutes and 40 seconds, Capricious Variations will take the listener on a short jaunt through many different moods, and gives the performer plenty of opportunity to show off their technical and stylistic prowess.
– Robyn Jones
Daniel Eichenbaum. Gagarin. Self-published, 2011. $15.00
Daniel Eichenbaum is associate professor of music at Fairmont State University where he teaches composition and music theory. Gagarin is a work for B-flat clarinet and fixed media that combines electroacoustic music with science education. The work draws inspiration from Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who orbited the earth aboard Vostok 1 in 1961, becoming the first human in space. Eichenbaum includes a rough paraphrase of Dimitri Shostakovich’s Rodina slyshit (The Motherland Hears), which Gagarin sang in a broadcast to earth during his historic orbit.
The clarinet and fixed media parts weave together using similar gestures that imitate sounds from the space race including static bursts, clicks, white noise and Morse code. The opening is marked quarter = 132, “Crisp, boiling with energy.” At this rapid tempo the clarinet performs articulated staccato 16ths with irregular accents and leaps in a Morse code-like manner. This blistering tempo presents a large technical challenge for the clarinetist. Eichenbaum uses dotted lines to notate the approximate location of specific events where the two parts should align. Although the tempo is strict, the performer does still have opportunity for some flexibility and rubato between those moments. The energetic opening briefly subsides as the clarinet transitions to a relaxed, dolce melody. This starkly beautiful passage leads into a rapid conclusion marked “secco à la Morse code.” Faster than the opening, at quarter = 152, the ending has fewer leaps and more syncopation which makes the articulation manageable.
At just 5 minutes in length, Gagarin is an approachable electroacoustic work due to the minimal equipment required, however it presents considerable technical demands due to the rapid articulation. The work is currently unpublished but interested performers may contact Daniel Eichenbaum directly for score and performance materials at daniele[email protected] or through his website danieleichenbaum.com.
– Zachary Dierickx
Johann Sebastian Bach. Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012 transcribed for basset horn by Frédéric Matagne. HDSB Music Publishing, www.hdsb.eu €29.90
Johann Sebastian Bach. Partitas for Solo Violin BWV 1002, 1004 and 1006 transcribed for clarinets in A and B-flat by Frédéric Matagne. HDSB Music Publishing, www.hdsb.eu €24.90
The clarinet, being the youngest representative of wind instruments, unfortunately has no repertoire coming from the genius J.S. Bach. However, his most influential son Carl Philipp Emanuel did write six sonatas with fortepiano, clarinet and bassoon (or cello). Frédéric Matagne, Belgian musician, and founder of HDSB Music Publishing, has admired J.S. Bach ever since singing his cantatas. This is the reason he took up this transcription project of major solo works of this outstanding composer for clarinet and its closest “relative,” the basset horn. The Six Suites for solo cello are considered by all musicians to be sublime music and they don’t need an introduction. The basset horn, with its tenor tessitura, is an instrument quite akin to the cello, in my opinion more so than the bass clarinet. Matagne has made a second transcribed version of the same suites, in a separate publication, for both clarinet and bass clarinet. His transcription is based on the original manuscript copied by Anna Magdalena Bach (unfortunately we do not have the original manuscript of J.S. Bach) and the dynamics and articulations are as close as possible to it. The transcriber says in his informative preface that “the articulations marked in the manuscript guide the performer in their choices, but it will be up to the player to follow or modify them according to the right taste.” This is also the case for the Sei Solo a violino Senza Basso (Six Solos for Violin Without Bass). The main source used by Matagne was the version copied by Anna Magdalena Bach, with only a few articulation and dynamic indications. A good clarinetist will be able to make their own markings based on historical criteria. These three violin partitas are written for both BÌ clarinet (BWV 1004) and A clarinet (BWV 1002/1006). They are demanding pieces on both the technical and musical sides; they can also be a challenge for clarinet players unfamiliar with baroque style. The quality of these two transcriptions is high, as is the engraving and physical aspect of these beautiful publications. HDSB Music Publications also has in its catalog the violin Sonatas BWV 1001, 1003 and 1005. We must say bravo to Matagne for this Bach project and we hope that he will continue with more transcriptions.
– Luigi Magistrelli
Johann Stamitz. Clarinet Concerto in B-flat Major. Edited by Nicolai Pfeffer. G. Henle Verlag, 2021. €16.00
Finally we have an Urtext edition of the Johann Stamitz Clarinet Concerto, considered the first significant clarinet concerto following the early ones written by Valentin Rathgeber (1830s) and the two concertos of Franz Pokorny (mid-18th century). Stamitz (1717–1757) was the father of Carl Stamitz, who wrote at least 10 clarinet concertos (several in collaboration with J. Beer). Johann Stamitz worked, like his son, in the well-reputed Mannheim orchestra as a violinist and had a considerable influence on the development of the symphonic form and solo concerto, having written concertos for flute, violin, oboe and harpsichord.
This late Baroque concerto was conceived in the galant style, with richness of harmonic ideas, nice melodic phrases and some demanding technical passages for the three- or four-keyed clarinet of those times. The English clarinetist Frederick Thurston made the first modern revival of this concerto in 1936 in London. The Stamitz Concerto, like many others of the early classical and classical periods, had remained unpublished until then. As explained in the informative preface of this Henle edition, the original manuscript has not been found. We have only a handwritten set of parts by an anonymous copyist, rediscovered by Peter Gradenwitz in 1933 in the music collection of the Fuerst Thurn und Taxis Hofbibliothek in Regensburg. Gradenwitz was able to state with convincing reasons that the concerto he discovered should be attributed to Stamitz the father and not to his son, Carl. Nicolai Pfeffer, who previously edited for Henle the Crusell Clarinet Concertos and Gade’s Fantasy Pieces, did a very fine job making clear the original form of the manuscript, correcting obvious errors, adding only a few implied articulations and providing two well-written suggested cadenzas for the first movement. The player is invited, with good historical musical knowledge, to apply their own personal articulations and ornamentation. This is a very welcome edition to have in our clarinet library!
– Luigi Magistrelli
Béla Bartók. Hungarian Peasant Songs. Arranged for clarinet and piano by Ray Jackendoff. Self-published. Free.
Ray Jackendoff is perhaps most recognized for his research and writing on linguistics, cognition and music cognition. Jackendoff is emeritus professor of philosophy and emeritus co-director for the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His contributions to music cognition include numerous articles, lectures and publications such as the groundbreaking book A Generative Theory of Tonal Music which was co-written with Fred Lerdahl in 1983. Jackendoff is also a noted clarinetist and composer with two commercial recordings and a collection of original works and arrangements featuring the clarinet in various combinations. Jackendoff’s compositions and arrangements are available as free downloads from his website: https://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/jackendoff/music.html.
Béla Bartók’s Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs, Sz. 71, BB 79 (1920) is a collection of Hungarian folk melodies arranged for piano (and later adapted for orchestra) which were collected by the composer between 1910 and 1918. Jackendoff’s arrangement for clarinet and piano draws inspiration from flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal who published his own arrangement for flute and piano. Like Rampal, Jackendoff adds ornamentation in line with Hungarian folk style. The work is well suited to the range and timbre of the clarinet. Jackendoff effectively draws the clarinet solo line from the piano original as if the work was always meant to be a duet. This is no mere solo and accompaniment, however, as the clarinet and piano parts are closely interwoven. The arrangement demands sensitive collaboration to bring out the rubato and nuance of Bartók’s original. Jackendoff’s arrangement is a perfect piece for the concert stage and a natural fit for the clarinet.
Jackendoff’s other compositions and arrangements include his Sonata for basset horn and piano (a version of his bassoon Sonata), chamber arrangements of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Carl Maria von Weber, and a collection of works for two clarinets and bassoon. This last category includes two original compositions, aptly titled Trio No. 1 (1962) and Trio No. 2 (1968), along with arrangements of music by Franz Josef Haydn, Dmitri Shostakovich and of the early polyphonic vocal and instrumental pieces of the Glogauer Liederbuch (Glogau Songbook). A note at the top of the site prompts us to watch the page as there is more to come. Based on the high quality of the arrangements as well as the inventive and interesting original compositions, I recommend doing so.
– Zachary Dierickx
Giovanni Paisiello. Idol mio m’alletta ogn’ ora and Se a librarsi in mezzo all’onde for soprano, obbligato clarinet and piano. Nico Bertelli Edizioni Musicali. €12.00 each
Ferdinando Paer. Una voce al cor mi parla for soprano, obbligato clarinet and piano. Nico Bertelli Edizioni Musicali, www.nicobertelli-clarinet.com. €12.00
The clarinet may be considered the most flexible wind instrument in terms of timbre, dynamics and palette of colors. For this reason, it is suited to many different musical styles. Its flexibility is like the human voice and a good number of composers throughout history decided to put them together. Schubert, Spohr, Meyerbeer, Lachner and many other composers wrote Lieder for soprano voice, obbligato clarinet and piano accompaniment. In a similar vein, considering operas, cantatas, oratorios and other types of orchestral compositions we think of Mozart, who wrote two wonderful obbligato arias in his opera La Clemenza di Tito: “Parto, parto” for soprano, obbligato basset clarinet in BÌ and “Non più di Fiori” for mezzo soprano and obbligato basset horn. Beethoven did the same in his concert aria Ah! perfido (the clarinet part is not so demanding, though). In the Italian opera repertoire, there are examples in operas by Guglielmi, Mercadante, Mayr (also many obbligato parts for clarinetto dolce, including clarinet d’amour in his compositions of sacred music) and in the works of his pupil Donizetti.
Giovanni Paisiello was an important composer of the Neapolitan School of the last decades of the 18th century. From Paisiello’s opera L’Amor ingegnoso (1785) and from his oratorio La Passione di Gesù Cristo (1784) Nico Bertelli has revised two arias and made (for the first time) piano accompaniments. Both operas are preserved at the Conservatory of Naples. The clarinet part has demanding technical writing in the first aria, and melodic and cantabile lines in the second.
The aria “Una voce al cor mi parla” is from Ferdinando Paer’s opera Sargino (1803). He was primarily an opera composer with German/Austrian origins and was active in Italy during the late Classical period. Colin Lawson cited this aria in his book Mozart Clarinet Concerto as an example of obbligato arias where the basset clarinet could have been possibly used. On the manuscript, the basset notes are not present, but according to Lawson’s research, it is possible that Anton Stadler could have thought to add them to this aria. There is a slow introduction with an elaborate clarinet part followed by a brilliant Allegro.
All three of these arias are very welcome additions to the rich repertoire for soprano with obbligato clarinet. We must thank Nico Bertelli for rediscovering and publishing these wonderful works! Check Bertelli’s publishing house for many similar works.
– Luigi Magistrelli
Manuel Monlleó Y Rosell. Trio for three clarinets (1880), revised by Pedro Rubio. Bassus Ediciones Musicales, 2021. €18.00
Pedro Rubio is a well-known Spanish clarinetist, teacher at the Madrid Conservatory and researcher in the field of rare Spanish clarinet repertoire. Some years ago he founded the publishing house Bassus Ediciones Musicale and has amassed a large number of neglected Spanish compositions for clarinet, primarily from the 19th century. These works are from composers including A. Romero, M. Wirtz, H. E. Helizondo, P. R. Barrett, E. A. Corera, P. Soler, O. Segura, E. C. Serrano, R. C. Batlle, J. De Monasterio, B. P. Casas, A. S. del Valle and E. F. Pages. Bassus Ediciones Musicales has compositions of Spanish composers devoted to the bass clarinet such as Romanza by B. P. Casas, Etudes by Rubio and his arrangements of Boismortier Sonatas.
At hand is this very recent and well-edited publication for clarinet trio by Manuel Monlleó y Rosell (1832-1900), a clarinetist and composer active in Madrid in the second half of the 19th century. He studied clarinet with Antonio Romero and composition with Ramon Carnicer at the Madrid Conservatory between 1849 and 1856. He was a member of the Royal Band of Halberdiers, and its director from 1865 to 1867. He composed a Fantasia for clarinet and band (1868). The Trio was composed for the clarinet students of the Madrid Conservatory, where he was teaching. Monlleó also composed a Clarinet Quartet, documented in a public performance of the Madrid Conservatory in 1899, but unfortunately it is lost.
The list of other known historic original clarinet trios include works by of G. Gherardeschi (10 Sonatas composed in the early 1790s), G. F. Fuchs’s Six Trios Concertant (c. 1803, arrangements from his Trios for two clarinets and bassoon), J. Bouffil (a large number from 1830) and others written by I. Mueller, T. Blatt and J. F. Hummel (1880). Rubio writes in his long and very informative preface that stylistically the Monlleó trio is close to the pieces of his contemporaries Hummel and Stark, and resembles in terms of level of difficulty the Bouffil Trios, written some decades before. This trio has three movements; the slow movement, Largo, has some small cadenzas, equally distributed among the three players, and the other two movements contain brilliant themes, often supported by a demanding third clarinet line. We must be grateful to Pedro Rubio for rediscovering and publishing this interesting trio to be added to the limited historic clarinet trio repertoire.
– Luigi Magistrelli