Witold Lutoslawski (1913 - 1994)
Preludia taneczne (Dance preludes)
Lutoslawski was the most significant Polish composer after Szymanowski and one of the major European musical figures of the twentieth century. During the Second World War, Lutoslawski formed a piano duo partnership with Andrzej Panufnik which played in war-torn Warsaw, but much of his music from this period was destroyed. Some of his post-war work, such as his First Symphony, was branded "formalist" by the ruling Soviet authorities, so Lutoslawski concentrated on producing functional music and mostly folk-based pieces. The Dance Preludes for clarinet and piano, which he later orchestrated, date from 1954. This was a year after Stalin's death, which signaled the beginning of a thaw in cultural totalitarianism; that same year Lutoslawski finished his Concerto for Orchestra, the work which established his international reputation. These Dances, alternately fast and slow, celebrate the rhythms and tunes of folk dances from North Poland; Lutoslawski called them his "farewell to folklore".
Miguel Yuste Moreno (1870 - 1947)
Yuste was a great clarinet virtuoso and teacher, whose reforms to clarinet study at Madrid Conservatory made him a major figure in the development of clarinet playing in Spain in the 20th century. He was orphaned at the age of 8 and taken to Madrid, where he studied initially with José Chacón. In 1883, aged 13, he studied with Manuel González y Val at the Madrid Conservatory from where he graduated four years later. Yuste then undertook a busy professional career in opera, theatre and symphony orchestra, together with regular commitments to the municipal band of Madrid. In his thirty years (1910-1940) as the clarinet professor at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid (to give it its full and impressive title) as successor to González, Miguel Yuste devised a highly influential systematic 6-year course of study based on the Romero and Klosé tutors which bears fruit to this day.
Capricho Pintoresco, Op. 41 starts with solo clarinet playing a languid melody, which leads to an impressive cadenza before the main musical material is presented. The piece ends brilliantly.
The clarinet presents the initial material of Estudio Melodico, Op. 33. Successive embellishments culminate in a cadenza before the material is re-presented.
Claude Debussy (1862 -1918)
Debussy wrote his Première Rapsodie especially for the annual clarinet graduation recitals or Concours at the Paris Conservatoire in 1910, a year after he had been invited by the director of the Conservatoire, Gabriel Fauré, to join the advisory board of the institution. Most solos de concours were straightforward bi-partite, slow-fast pieces designed to test and display the lyrical and virtuoso sides of a candidate's abilities. But Debussy uses a group of four themes to alternate lyrical passages with ones demanding digital dexterity, adding mastery of mood and tempo changes to the technical challenges of the Rapsodie. The Rapsodie inhabits the same sound-world as the first book of piano preludes, which Debussy finished at around the same time. Though it's called Première Rapsodie, Debussy never wrote a Deuxieme; perhaps he was making a pun on the fact that successful Conservatoire candidates were awarded a Premier Prix. And having negotiated the Rapsodie, those same 1910 students were then presented with a piece of accompanied sight reading also by Debussy, published as Petit Pièce. Both Rapsodie and Petit Pièce are classics of the clarinet repertoire, and Debussy later orchestrated them both. The Rapsodie is dedicated to the clarinet professor at the Conservatiore, Prospère Mimart "en témoigne de sympathie" (with an expression of sympathy), and Mimart duly gave the first public performance in January 1911.
Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963)
Sonata for Clarinet and piano
Poulenc's Clarinet Sonata is one of four works for wind instruments and piano from the composer's final years; starting with horn Élégie of 1957, there are sonatas for oboe, for flute and for clarinet, and Poulenc may also have been contemplating a bassoon sonata when he died. Poulenc's other works for clarinet (Sonata for two clarinets and Sonata for clarinet and bassoon) are from his youth and full of the piquancy and wit we have come to associate with him. By contrast, the Clarinet Sonata of 1962 is a more serious work dedicated to the memory of Arthur Honegger though like the earlier works it has three movements, in a fast-slow-fast pattern. After an introduction, the moderate first movement contains music of an almost religious serenity (some of the melodic material bears a resemblance to music from Poulenc's opera Dialogues des Carmelites). The gentle middle movement is in a contrasting key, and the sonata ends with a sprightly, folksy finale.
Carl Nielsen (1865 - 1931)
Fantasy, FS. 3h
Carl Nielsen's childhood on the island of Funen, which he touchingly recalled in his biography My childhood, was one of grinding poverty. His father was a house painter and amateur violinist, and often took young Carl to parties at which he played in the dance band. It was at one of these dances that a polka by Carl was first performed. Carl's other abiding memory of this period were the songs his mother used to sing to him, and these two elements (song and dance) find an outlet in this Fantasy for clarinet and piano by the teenage Nielsen. The Fantasy is in the style of a late 19th century song without words, with a lyrical first section and a very short, animated finale.
Antonio Romero y Andía (1815-1886)
The Spanish clarinettist, teacher, publisher, inventor and manufacturer Antonio Romero y Andía made a notable debut in his native Madrid at the age of fourteen. He was a solo clarinettist for many years, as well as music director of the Royal Court Orchestra and various regimental bands of the Royal Guard. For over quarter of a century, from 1849 to 1876, Romero was Professor at the Madrid Conservatory where he also taught oboe for a time. Romero's series of Clarinet Methods (one each for 13-keyed, Simple and Boehm System, and Romero System instruments) were of particular importance: he was responsible for the spread of the Boehm system clarinet throughout Spain. But Romero felt he could improve on the Boehm System and invented the Romero System to overcome various acoustic and fingering challenges. The Romero system did not receive wide acceptance, since it needed a large number of regulating screws for it to perform reliably. In 1854 Romero opened an instrument shop in Madrid, and two years later he founded a music publishing business which became one of the most important in Spain.
Romero's Fantasia on themes from Lucrezia Borgia is typical of the display pieces of the period with which touring virtuosi thrilled their audiences, with florid cadenzas linking tunes from Donizetti's opera, the penultimate one of which is subjected to a virtuoso variation.
Recorded at Henry Wood Hall, London, UK - 22, 23, 28 October 2004
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Will Brown
Edited by Bill Sykes
Surround Mixing by Philip Hobbs
Mastered at Finesplice, UK
Booklet Notes by Andrew Lyle
Translation of Inocencio Negrín by Javier Rodriguez
Photographs of Maximiliano Martín & Design by John Haxby