The eighth annual Clarinetopia seminar met at Michigan State University, June 1-5, 2016. Students from near and far gathered on the hilly, wooded campus to immerse in four daysof clarinet activities. The internationally known faculty included co-directors Michael Webster and Guy Yehuda, Ayako Oshima, Steve Cohen, Tasha Warren Yehuda, mouthpiece expert Ramon Wodkowski, and flutist Leone Buyse. On arrival day, students were greeted at “The Reed Table,” an introduction to reed making and adjustment of commercial reeds. Everyone became acquainted at the Welcome Dinner, followed by the opening recital given by Leone Buyse, Michael Webster and Genadi Zagor. A retrospective of Webster’s flute, clarinet, and piano arrangements included music by Dvorak, Husa, Gottschalk, Debussy, Brahms, Fauré, and Grieg.
The next three mornings began with “Breathing and Stretching” and group warm-ups led by Yehuda, Oshima, and Webster. Buyse and Webster offered presentations entitled “Owning the Stage” and “Brahms: Appassionato or Amabile?” The students performed in masterclasses and student recitals featuring repertoire both standard and unusual. All of them were open to trying new approaches offered by the faculty; without exception, the recital performances showed confidence and growth. Guy and Tasha Warren Yehuda opened and closed their recital with the Mendelssohn Koncertstücke, the basset horn parts played elegantly by Tasha, accompanied by Genadi Zagor. In between, we were treated to some music not often heard: Bach/Langenus: Chromatic Fantasy; Mordecai Seter: Monodrama; Bernstein: Riffs; Shulamit Ran: For an Actor; and Anders Hillborg: The Peacock Moment.
Steve Cohen and Ayako Oshima shared the final recital with pianist Lia Wang. Steve offered the Horovitz Sonatina, his own arrangement of four Benjamin BrittenMetamorphoses (originally for oboe solo), and the jazzy Fuzzy Bird Sonata by Takashi Yoshimatsu. Few clarinetists would dare attempt Dvorak’s Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100with the original violin part unaltered in any way. Ayako Oshima did to brilliant effect, followed by Michio Kitazume’s Shadows IV for Solo Clarinet, which included multiphonics and special effects. Bassi’s Fantasia from Bellini’s “I Puritani” brought the faculty recitals to an appropriately brilliant conclusion.
Ramon Wodkowski gave his mouthpiece lecture on Saturday, followed by helping students with individual mouthpiece problems or requests. Students flocked to him like the Pied Piper and he arranged to extend his stay to Sunday to honor the many requests. The traditional “Round Table” discussion allowed the students to lead a discussion of questions and topics that had come up during the master classes with the faculty answering questions, offering opinions, and helping to solve problems. The students bonded together in a short time and added an impromptu clarinet choir performance of a Mozart Rondo and the Clarinet Polka to the final student concert.
Information on Clarinetopia 2017 will be available in September at clarinetopia.com.