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Clarinet

We’re beginning and ending
our season with pieces
featuring the clarinet

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Featured Instrument:
The Clarinet

Rich, mellow, warm, gentle, melodic, vocal, lustrous, laughing, brilliant, bright, throaty, penetrating, dark, menacing, dramatic, explosive, shrill, reedy, caressing, pale, lively—the clarinet can reflect all of these moods. Vice President Programs Gay Stanek notes, “I’m particularly fond of the sound of the clarinet—I love its warmth, its kinship to the voice, its expressiveness, and the repertoire that features it.” The clarinet is a member of the woodwind family, as it is made of wood and played by blowing. A variety of woods might be used to make it—grenadilla wood, boxwood, rosewood, and even rubber and plastic for student models. It has an unusually broad range, starting in the basement with the low note at the bottom of a tenor’s vocal range, and running up to a high note that a violin can play at its top. For example, consider the famous clarinet solo in the fabulous slide run that opens Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The clarinet has a single-reed mouthpiece (versus its woodwind cousins, the oboe and bassoon, which use double reeds); these reeds (cut from a special variety of cane) require constant attention from the player who must keep them moist and pliable for best tone and control. The instruments themselves come in a variety of sizes and pitches, all the way down to a giant contrabass clarinet which is so tall that the mouthpiece neck at the top is curved and at the bottom, the upturned bell of the instrument rests on the floor when the player is seated. Unlike certain stringed instruments, old clarinets don’t necessarily appreciate—they often depreciate in value and in sound quality, which keeps the market for new clarinets quite lively.

While Vivaldi and Handel occasionally used the clarinet in their orchestral work, it was In the late 1700’s that Mozart enthusiastically used it in his operas and symphonies, and Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, Poulenc, Hindemith, and Copland among others quickly picked it up as well for symphonic and chamber music, some of which we will hear this season. And finally, we must make a nod to jazz, where the clarinet also shines: what would our world have been without clarinet-playing bandleaders Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman? This beautiful, expressive instrument has sung throughout the ages, and we will certainly enjoy hearing it celebrated in our bookend concerts.

By Louise Smith

CCMS 2018–19 Season’s
Composer and Composition Time Lines

It is always interesting to see how the body of Western classical music has been built, composer by composer, work by work, sometimes overlapping, sometimes not. This timeline shows what a wide range of music we will be listening to this season: our first composer (Mozart) was born in 1756 and our most recent composer (Khachaturian), died in 1978, a span of 222 years in all. The music itself was written over nearly 150 years, some experimental for the period but now familiar (after all, Beethoven was revolutionary in his own time), some conservative and traditional. This season, we will be hearing twice from two towering giants, Mozart and Ravel, pillars at either end of the musical spectrum in both respects. We hope you find this little chart helpful in putting things into perspective. 

The Chicago Chamber  Music Society

P.O. Box 350
Kenilworth, IL 60043

Phone: 847.251.1400
ext. 0

info@chicagochamber
musicsociety.org

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