Report by Lisa Kachouee
In addition to concerts celebrating canonized repertoire or new contributions to the literature, ClarinetFest® 2016 featured two concerts titled “Forgotten Gems.” The second concert in this series took place in Swarthout Recital Hall on Saturday, August 6, at 3 p.m. Ranging in scope from substantial to short, light works, most of the pieces featured were written within a decade of each other. This recital provided a valuable trove of repertoire rarely heard, yet appropriate for nearly any collegiate or professional recital.
David Gould, sponsored by Buffet Crampon and Vandoren, opened the concert with Trois Pieces, Op. 40, Nos. 1, 2, and 3 by Rene de Boisdeffre. Written in 1873, this is a set of charming pieces Gould found while searching through literature at a ClarinetFest® booth several years ago. Included on his 2014 album The Forgotten Clarinet, the works were recently edited by Gould for the publisher International Music Diffusion. Although they worked well as a set, these pieces could stand alone as short recital interludes. Gould’s intimate knowledge of French repertoire was evident in his impassioned performance.
A series of university professors followed, performing single pieces or pairs of compatible works. David Odom, sponsored by Auburn University, presented Three Intermezzi, Op. 13, by Charles Villiers Stanford. The composition contained elegant, singing melodies decorated with virtuosic flourishes. Odom handled the expansive phrases gently with a sweet, focused sound, balancing the playful musical moments with the serene, pastoral qualities emblematic of English music from this time.
On faculty at the University of Tenessee–Knoxville, Victor Chávez performed two French contest pieces written nearly 15 years apart. During his Fulbright Fellowship he studied pedagogy, performance practice and literature in Paris. He selected these two pieces from his research to demonstrate the rapid evolution of the French contest pieces. First he performed Klosé’s Treizième Solo, the last in a series of pieces Klosé named simply by number. Chávez expertly navigated the considerable technical challenges of the piece gracefully, never compromising the beautiful clarity of his sound. Next he performed Première Fantaisie by Georges Marty. Immediately evident was the greater complexity of the thematic material and greater dramatic impact of the work compared to the more conservative harmonic language of the Klosé. Greater extremes in range and dynamics proved no obstacle for his consummate musicianship.
Performing the most substantial work of the recital was Shannon Thompson, associate professor of clarinet at Western Carolina University. She performed Théodore Gouvy’s three movement work Sonata, Op. 67, in G minor. Striking, the work opened with intrepid statements by the piano answered by the clarinet. Tuneful, expansive melodies permeated the opening “Allegro moderato” and the “Andante cantabile.” The finale, a lively rondo, calmed with moments of major harmony, but settled back to end in G minor. Thompson’s powerful sound was well-suited to the compelling dramatic weight of the sonata.
Concluding the recital was Martín Castillos, principal clarinetist of the National Symphony Orchestra of Uruguay and clarinet teacher at the University of the Republic, Motevideo, Uruguay. He opened with Sarabande et Thême Varié by Reynaldo Hahn. Venezuelan, but naturalized French, Hahn wrote in a late Romantic style despite living well into the twentieth century. Castillos brought vitality to the work, particularly in the fluidly executed, virtuosic final variation. To close the concert we heard Leonardo Velázquez’s Variaciones. This unique set of variations was an aural melting pot of cultures: influences of traditional Mexican music, the light-hearted chromaticism of French composers like Françaix, and blues from early twentieth-century America. Unlike a typical set of variations, this set did not have great variance in tempi, rather in style and melodic ornamentation. Castillos captured the character of each variation and brought great clarity to an unconventional work.
Dr. Lisa Kachouee is on faculty at Oklahoma City University, teaches with El Sistema Oklahoma, and is a member of the clarinet and percussion ensemble Duo Rodinia. In addition to recent solo and duo concert tours, she made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2014 and has performed with orchestras throughout the United States.