Clarinet Sonatas by Blackwood and Reger
- CDR 90000 022
Cedille Selects tracks are designed to provide a representative overview of the album
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It's hard to find noteworthy music for clarinet and piano, not to mention accessible contemporary compositions. Composer and pianist Easley Blackwood expands the repertoire with two accessible yet substantial works written in 1994 and receiving their recording debuts on this CD. Both Blackwood works were written for John Bruce Yeh, assistant principal clarinetist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who performs on the album with Blackwood.
"These are pieces worth playing, worth mastering," Yeh says. "Blackwood has perfect understanding of what the instrument does well and how to make the best of it."
Most clarinet and piano works by major composers are for the B-flat clarinet, so Blackwood took a different tack by writing for the Clarinet in A and the E-flat piccolo clarinet. His richly melodic, high-stepping Sonata in A minor for Clarinet and Piano moves with a ballet-like rhythmic verve. His festive Sonatina in F major for Piccolo Clarinet, Op. 38 explores the uncharted lyrical side of an instrument usually relegated to humorous or grotesque effects in large orchestral works. "There is no repertoire whatever for piano and E-flat clarinet -- at least to my knowledge," Blackwood writes in the CD booklet.
Best-known for his somber, sprawling organ works, Max Reger reveals surprisingly witty and tender sides to his musical personality in the Sonata No. 3 in B-flat major, Op. 107 (1909), and early 20th century piece that echoes the bygone German Romantic tradition. The sonata had long been a favorite of Yeh, who convinced Blackwood, a musical collaborator for some 17 years, to consider adding it to his repertoire. One reason the sonata coexists so well alongside Blackwood's is that they're "similar in harmonic idiom," Blackwood says.
Yeh became a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1977 at age 19. Two years later, Sir George Solti appointed him assistant principal clarinetist. He also performs as soloist with orchestras in the US and Europe and with prestigious chamber ensembles such as the Guarneri String Quartet and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.