ClarinetFest® 2023 in Review
ClarinetFest® 2023 Day 5
A Solo Recital by Alexander Bedenko
by Angelina Gibson
Upon the final morning of the 2023 ClarinetFest®, a stirringly memorable recital took place in the Westcliff Salon of the Marriott. Alexander Bedenko is a clarinetist of evocative artistry and relishing passion, which is all readily apparent in reviews of his performances within and outside the US. His Sunday, July 9th program comprised of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Rozenblatt’s Carmen Fantasy, and Béla Kovács’ Shalom Aleichem: a program overflowing with melodies and brilliance. Moreover, Bedenko’s program featured his own clarinet and piano arrangements of Rachmaninoff’s Romance in A Minor, the Andante from the Cello Sonata, Op. 19, and Tchaikovsky’s Melodie, Op. 42, #3. Said arrangements attest to Bedenko’s abilities not only as a player, but an arranger that knows how to ensure the clarinet’s best attributes are harnessed.
Bedenko’s arrangement of the Tchaikovsky opened his program and his entire interpretation seemed to levitate, as if dancing midair upon his rich tone and songful phrasing—a small taste of what the audience would receive that morning. The two Rachmaninoff pieces then followed, with this recital being the premiere performance of the Romance. Throughout, the audience was treated to Bedenko’s intimate emotionality through his playing and physical movements as he responded to the piece’s contours. Along with Jooyeon Chang’s accompaniment, Bedenko creates a musical atmosphere of technical clarity and dynamic command. The Andante from Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata opens with Chang’s playing to elicit a sense of sincere, heartfelt love for the music, which is only heightened by Bedenko’s entrance. Bedenko’s effectual arrangement, along with his performance, convinces one that the sonata is easily adapted for the clarinet. The quintessential triumphant climaxes within the piece are captured in their entirety by both Bedenko and Chang. One of the things that Bedenko does best—as especially heard in the Cello Sonata—is executing a lasting ending. Each of his final notes float into a place we dearly wish we could follow, ephemeral and tender.
With a distinct change in mood, Alexander Rozenblatt’s Carmen Fantasy opens with a percussive passion from both the piano and clarinet. The opera’s familiar melodies are captured in all of the presence and command of a singer through Bedenko’s virtuosity, both technical and melodic. His technical passages are thrilling in both their clarity and fluttering speed throughout the entire Fantasy, and it is obvious that he is immersed in its motion and world. The arias sing through Bedenko’s playing, as an expert vocalist would, and Carmen’s irresistible presence is felt through his musical grace. After a relentlessly accelerating conclusion and rousing applause, Bedenko’s program closes with Béla Kováks. Before he begins, Beenko thanks his Selmer family and the ICA after excitedly remarking, “ And now let’s really play!” Trills, bends, glissandi, and growls all communicate an undeniable soulfulness within the opening cantillation of Shalom Aleichem. Once again, Bedenko enraptured the audience with his songfulness. His pianissimos are incredibly tenderhearted, as if they are whispers of memories. The dances continue to be engrossing, as Bedenko and Chang’s total investment and mastery are evident. Never, in the entire program, was there even a wisp of stagnancy.
An eager applause filled the salon, punctuated by sincere “Bravos!” Wide smiles of appreciation and joy came across the faces of Bedenko and Chang. Even after the applause concluded, a buzzing chatter could be heard throughout the recital’s attendees. “Inspiring,” as one audience member concluded, was only but one word to describe the outstanding performance they had just experienced. Truly, the morning hour and audience size did not dim Bedenko’s illuminating and riveting performance. His presence was that of a master and one that will continue to be emulated by all.
For Bedenko’s arrangements, please visit: https://www.alexanderbedenko.com/arrangements.