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ClassicsOnline Home » Clarinet Recital: Simon, Andrew - NICHIFOR, S. / HOROVITZ, J. / LUTOSŁAWSKI, W. / COOKE, A. / ARNOLD, M. (Ebony and Ivory)
This fascinating and wide-ranging programme of 20th-century works for clarinet and piano begins with the jazz and folk-inspired Two Dances for Andrew Simon by the Romanian composer Şerban Nichifor, followed by a selection of works by Joseph Horovitz with whom both artists worked closely prior to this recording. Based on folk-songs from Northern Poland, Lutosławski’s Dance Preludes are the composer’s official ‘farewell to folklore for an indefinite period’, and the recital concludes with Arnold Cooke’s Hindemith-inspired Sonata and Malcolm Arnold’s accessible and light-hearted Sonatina.
Ebony and Ivory: Works for Clarinet and Piano
Nichifor • Horovitz • Lutosławski • Cooke • Arnold
“I much appreciate that Andrew and Warren visited me in London in November 2012 to discuss their approach to these clarinet works. I am delighted with their performances on this CD, which retain all my own ideas and display the artists’ individual technical brilliance and sensitivity to every detail.” – Joseph Horovitz
“Andrew Simon’s performances of Carnyx and Joke are extraordinary, authentic models!” – Şerban Nichifor
Şerban Nichifor (b. 1954): Two Dances for Andrew Simon
The Romanian composer Şerban Nichifor is well known for his many compositions dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust, and was awarded the Order of the Crown in 2008 by the Belgian government. His musical style is based on neo-romanticism with an influence of jazz. Written in 1984, Carnyx was a prizewinning work presented at the International Society for Contemporary Music convention in 1988. Among the admirers of the piece at the convention was clarinettist Andrew Simon, who immediately programmed it in his Carnegie Hall début in the same year. After The New York Times applauded the work, a friendship between Simon and Nichifor ensued, which resulted in the composer writing a preceding movement, A Musical Joke, and re-naming the set as Two Dances for Andrew Simon. A Musical Joke sees American jazz intertwined with Romanian folk elements in a constant accelerando. Carnyx is named after an ancient folk instrument, and is in perpetual motion. With its folk-inspired rhythms, the virtuosic showcase of the instrument and its player builds up to a dramatic crescendo/accelerando towards the end. This work may also be performed on the bass clarinet.
Joseph Horovitz (b. 1926): Two Majorcan Pieces • Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano • Diversions on a Familiar Theme
Born in Vienna, Joseph Horovitz moved to England in 1938. He is a prolific composer in many genres, from ballets and operas to concertos; and from musical scores for television plays to films including Tarzan’s Three Challenges (1963). His interest in writing for the clarinet grew out of his friendship with Gervase de Peyer, whom he met when they were students at the Royal College of Music in London in 1948, and they later went on to study in Paris together.
In 1953 Horovitz married and spent his honeymoon with his wife Anna in Majorca, where they visited Paguera and Valdemosa, which became the source of inspiration of his Two Majorcan Pieces. Enlivened by Spanish folktunes the composer had heard in these towns, Paguera is a pleasant piece that combines simplicity with a touch of lyricism. The clarinet takes the lead for most of the piece, fully exploring the range of the instrument. The piano, though seemingly playing a less substantial rôle, contributes much character to the piece with its counter melodies and rich and sometimes chromatic harmonies. The piano starts Valdemosa with a quick introduction that resembles a drone played on the banjo. The clarinet enters with a delightful yet somewhat bold statement, followed by a sweeping and more virtuosic version of it. A codetta brings the piece to a final flourish.
The Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano was written in 1981 at the request of Gervase de Peyer, and has today firmly established its place in the standard clarinet repertoire. The work is lighthearted and follows a traditional pattern of three movements. The first movement highlights the middle register of the clarinet, mainly lyrical against a rippling piano background. The second movement is breathtakingly beautiful, where the clarinet displays its sonorous tone colour in its lower register. The finale is a rhythmic rondo much influenced by jazz, which exploits the upper register of the clarinet. The work calls for equal virtuosity from both players.
Dedicated to Her Majesty the Queen, the Diversions on a Familiar Theme was written in 1997 to mark the Queen’s visit to the Royal College of Music. Originally scored for clarinet and strings, the composer transcribed the string parts for the piano. The “familiar theme” in question is Schumann’s Merry Peasant from his Album for the Young, Op 68, No 10. Here, the theme undergoes a series of interconnected and imaginative “diversions”, from lyrical to melancholic, and from a quick waltz to a march.
Andrew Simon and Warren Lee had the privilege of working with Horovitz on these compositions in his London home before the recording session in November 2012. Among other insights and anecdotes shared, the issue of the many tempo indications in his scores was discussed and studied with meticulous care. As a composer who is strict in his observance of his metronome indications, he has had various changes of heart with his markings, especially in the Sonatina. The recording artists took great care in executing these new changes in this recording and are indebted to the composer for his inspiration and guidance.
Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994): Dance Preludes for Clarinet and Piano
One of the most eminent composers of the twentieth century, Witold Lutosławski was born in Warsaw just before the outbreak of World War I. While reading mathematics at the University of Warsaw in 1931, he also pursued his musical interests, and in 1936 enrolled in the Conservatory, studying piano and composition. Over the course of his illustrious composition career, Lutosławski developed his unique array of compositional techniques, including his own version of twelve tone, and aleatorism, where chance becomes an element in his music within limits, hence allowing the performer to play a more interpretative rôle.
In his early years prior to 1954 when the Dance Preludes for Clarinet and Piano were written, Lutosławski’s music was largely influenced by Polish folk-music. After his First Symphony was censured as “formalist” by Stalin and removed from the repertoire in 1949, Lutosławski made a living during these dark years by writing what he described as “functional” music, largely for radio and schools. His Concerto for Orchestra, also composed in 1954, brought him two state prizes for its use of folk elements. In retrospect, Lutosławski said of this period, “I wrote as I was able, since I could not yet write as I wished.”
The five-movement Dance Preludes is his official “farewell to folklore for an indefinite period”. Based on folk-songs from northern Poland, the borrowed materials are seamlessly woven in these succinct character pieces. The set was later orchestrated for clarinet and small ensembles as well as a version for clarinet and orchestra.
Arnold Cooke (1906–2005): Sonata in B flat for Clarinet and Piano
Born in 1906 in West Yorkshire in England, Arnold Cooke read history at Cambridge, though he was then already aspiring to a career in music. His subsequent study with Paul Hindemith in Berlin proved to be a critical influence, as evident in the striking similarities between Hindemith’s Clarinet Sonata in B (1938) and Cooke’s Sonata, written in 1959.
The lyrical and contrapuntal first movement, the brisk scherzo-like second movement, the melancholic and dark sonority in the slow third movement, and the lively and exuberant account in the last movement in Cooke’s Sonata in B flat resemble the qualities of the four-movement Clarinet Sonata of his teacher. It is also worth noting that both composers opted not to declare a major or minor tonality in the title, despite its being obviously tonal.
Malcolm Arnold (1921–2006): Sonatina in G minor for Clarinet and Piano
Born in 1921 in the English town of Northampton, Malcolm Arnold developed a keen interest in jazz and at the age of twelve, decided to take up the trumpet. At the Royal College of Music he initially studied trumpet with Ernest Hall, as well as composition with Gordon Jacob. A fine trumpeter, he joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1942 after only two years at the College, and it was from his seat in the orchestra that he came to know the symphonic repertoire as well as other genres of music. It was also during this time that he wrote a trio of “little sonatas”, for flute, for oboe and for clarinet, for his distinguished friends.
The Clarinet Sonatina, composed in 1948, is dedicated to Frederick Thurston, of whom Arnold tries to create a miniature portrait in the piece. The opening theme depicts the robust and dramatic approach of Thurston’s playing, and the music goes on to showcase the best register and character of the instrument. The three-movement work follows a traditional fast-slow-fast pattern, and is an example of his accessible and lighthearted style among many others.
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