Clarinet music recommendations
July 16, 2005 7:23 PM   Subscribe

I love the sound of the clarinet. I'm looking for quiet, pensive, possibly melancholic music featuring this instrument. Any genre; preferably instrumental. I'm not looking for happy big-band jazz or Poulenc's chaotic clarinet sonata, though I appreciate both.

Some of my favourite works are Ralph Vaughan Williams' Six Studies in English Folksong, Brahms' Sonata in F minor and Evan Lurie's soundtrack for the film Joe Gould's Secret. I love June Tabor and Hem, who occasionally include the clarinet in their songs -- Hem's A-Hunting We Will Go is magnificent. (The instrument seems to go particular well with piano.) It's not a requirement that the clarinet be a solo instrument or even be constantly present.

Bonus points for suggesting quiet, warm, nostalgic music similar to the above that doesn't necessarily include the clarinet, but which you could perhaps play a clarinet to. (Tin Hat Trio is a good example.) In general, anything above the noise level of brushed drums is out of the question; we're talking music to enjoy while sipping wine in front of the fireplace.

Above links are directly to Amazon pages featuring excerpts, for easy sampling.
posted by gentle to Media & Arts (28 answers total)
Best answer: This one's easy: Richard Stoltzman. My Dad was given his Visions album a few years ago; that particular album might be too corny for you, but he has more serious stuff as well. For my money, he does melancholy better than any classical musician today. Also, the first movement of the Copland Sonata matches your description well (the second, not so much).
posted by gsteff at 7:47 PM on July 16, 2005

Best answer: Mozart K622 Clarinet Concerto with Antony Michaelson on clarinet. A remarkable composition and a very nice performance, especially by Antony who is most well known for running Musical Fidelity, one of the finest audio companies around. The recording is of course awesome, given that it is sold by Stereophile magazine.
posted by caddis at 7:56 PM on July 16, 2005

Best answer: I'm a big fan of the oud player Anouar Brahem--one of his trios features Barbaros Erköse, a Turkish clarinet player. Their influences are mostly the regional musics of the instrumentalists, and lots of smokey nightclub jazz.

we're talking music to enjoy while sipping wine in front of the fireplace
describes these guys perfectly.

Here's something on Erköse, and here's a review of Astrakan Café, one of Brahem's better albums with the clarinetist in his group (it's a little ways down the page--also, I don't know why it says Erköse is Egyptian...).
posted by hototogisu at 8:08 PM on July 16, 2005

I've always liked the sound of Debussy on clarinet.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:25 PM on July 16, 2005

Astrakan Café. It's inspired. It's brilliant. Yes.
posted by tiny purple fishes at 8:37 PM on July 16, 2005

The two Weber concertos are also brilliant.

The Spohr concertos are a little more out there, while the Francaix seems to have been intentionally written to be as vicious as possible on the player. It still gives me nightmares.
posted by blender at 9:01 PM on July 16, 2005

"Say hello Wave Goodbye"
soft cell
posted by hortense at 9:16 PM on July 16, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far, checking it out. Currently sampling Richard Stoltzman, sounds good.

hototogisu: Yeah, Brahem is good; I already have Astrakan and like it.

blender: I know and adore Francaix's Flower Clock concerto for oboe. But I'm not sure if you are recommending Francaix's clarinet works or not?

hortense: Er, what? How is that song or band relevant to this thread?
posted by gentle at 9:30 PM on July 16, 2005

There are some excellent arrangements of Erik Satie's work, principally the Gymnopedies, for clarines.
posted by luriete at 9:43 PM on July 16, 2005

Eric Dolphy's work on the Bass Clarinet has changed my life for the better.

Some chill tracks on Amazon you can get an idea from is Warm Canto on that page and Epistrophy here. The Baron on here is not as laid back but still clarinety.
posted by 31d1 at 10:54 PM on July 16, 2005

I very highly recommend Jewels and Binoculars' The Music of Bob Dylan. It's an album of Bob Dylan songs arranged for woodwind, bass and drums. As far as I'm concerned, this covers all of your requirements: it's got some beautiful Bb and bass clarinet playing by instrumentalist Michael Moore and it's warm, quiet and sentimental, especially if you're into the music of Bob Dylan.
Amazon doesn't have any track samples, but the Ramboy record label's page of the album has a sample of Visions of Johanna (link to .mp3). There are very short samples of each track here, but in my opinion they're too short to give you a real good feel for the album.
The album is pretty expensive in hard copy since it appears to be available only as an import from Japan, but you can buy individual tracks for US $.99 or buy the .mp3 version of the album for US $10 from the second sample site I linked to.
posted by Hadroed at 11:05 PM on July 16, 2005

gentle: that song has a very cool clarinet line .
posted by hortense at 11:34 PM on July 16, 2005

Best answer: holy shit, this is the best question i've ever had the privledge of answering (here). links are to albums unless otherwise noted:

Mozart Clarinet Concerto, K622 - i agree w/ caddis as far as selection, but i thouroughly enjoy David Shifrin's interpretation (although i've never heard Antony Michaelson, so thanks for the suggestion). several places in the modern version of this piece are actually transposed up, and Shifrin avoids this by consulting the original manuscript, and playing on a specially made extended range clarinet he had made just for him, just for this piece, to reach the lower notes the clarinet was capable of when Mozart wrote the concerto.

Mike Waddell - Defining Moments - Amazon doesn't carry this, nor can i find a link from Google offhand (link is instead to his bio). i got a copy of this CD from my last clarinet teacher. he does some great jazz improv, and plays sax as well. not alltogether quiet and pensive, but real smooth and casual. i can "loan" you the mp4s if you want them, drop me an email.

Thurston Clarinet Quartet - Masquerade - i especially like the Ancient Hungarian Dances and Joaquin Turina's French Suite.

Bang On A Can - Cheating Lying Stealing - although not all clarinet, there's one track in particular: Tsmindao Ghmerto, that features some incredibly moving and almost primal multiphonics on the bass clarinet.

i'm getting off track here -- ahem -- quiet, pensive, etc:

Jaga Jazzist - What We Must - i can't reccommend this group highly enough. check out the entry i wrote about them on my site. what i didn't tell everyone there is that i rock out to this album on my clarinet like there's no tomorrow. the clarinet itself is only prominantly featured in one song: For All You Happy People, but their style and orchestration lends to some of the best music I know to play around with. i'd start with Swedenborgske Rom, it's easy to improv around and instantly rewarding. i also especially like Stardust Hotel, its in a funky key for the Bb, but not bad, and its mostly them jumping around so much that throws me off -- its a lot fun regardless.

i don't have any recommendations for specific recordings on these, but they're excellent nonetheless:

Brahms - Sonata in Eb Major - if you haven't already.

Debussy - Premiere Rhapsodie
posted by jruckman at 2:17 AM on July 17, 2005

hadroed - i just bought that Michael Moore album -- excellent!

blender - Francaix! yeah, but it is beautiful
posted by jruckman at 2:36 AM on July 17, 2005

I really like Gioria Feidman's klezmer clarinet work.
posted by princelyfox at 4:13 AM on July 17, 2005

Best answer: What, no mention of Mr. Acker Bilk? Sure, he has a grounding in big band jazz, but his Stranger on the Shore is the definitive melacholic clarinet tune!
posted by nylon at 5:38 AM on July 17, 2005

Best answer: I can't believe everyone's recommending Mozart's concerto (as of course they should) without including the equally amazing (and quieter) clarinet quintet (K.581). (By the way, it would be nice if one could link to a web page about a particular classical work without having to go to a commercial site for a particular recording; is there such a thing?)

One of my favorite classical clarinet pieces is Schubert's song "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" (Op. 129); once you hear the haunting clarinet melody, you'll never forget it.

The jazz classics are Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw (you want Goodman's small group recordings); more recent names are Buddy DeFranco and Jimmy Giuffre (who of course also plays sax).
posted by languagehat at 6:55 AM on July 17, 2005

Best answer: Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time has some beautiful clarinet sections. Particularly the third movement, the Abyss of Birds. You can sample it on Amazon.
Clarinet alone. The abyss is Time with its sadness, its weariness. The birds are the opposite to Time; they are our desire for light, for stars, for rainbows, and for jubilant songs.
posted by Nelson at 9:00 AM on July 17, 2005

I'm with nylon on this, it has to be Stranger on the Shore (.wav format).

Fab tune.
posted by essexjan at 9:02 AM on July 17, 2005

Best answer: Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto, written for Benny Goodman in mind. Find a recording with Copland conducting and Goodman performing.
posted by margaretlam at 9:46 AM on July 17, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks all, good suggestions.

Mozart is indeed fantastic.

jruckman, the Thurston quartet album is way too festive/dull for my taste. I am already familiar with my fellow countrymen Jaga, of course; may I in turn suggest you check out trumpeter Arve Henriksen's amazing Chiaroscuro?
posted by gentle at 1:06 PM on July 17, 2005


sorry to bore you w/ Jaga details, no one around here has heard of them.

Thurston = festive AND dull? i'll admit i could certainly do w/out their cheezy Gershwin/similar medleys and a couple other choices, but French Suite? ... i think its one of those that's more fun to play than listen to.

i can't find much online about Chiaroscuro as far as samples are concerned -- but of the 60 seconds i have heard it certainly sounds interesting, i'm looking further -- thanks.

some more suggestions:

i've heard good things about the Concerto in Bb major, no. 3, op. 11 by Bernard Crussell, although I've never heard it myself -- only that it has a profound slow movement.

I also like the Manevich Concerto, its a little older and has a Russian flavor, so I'm not sure if it's precisely what you have in mind.

Miklos Concerto

Muczynski Time Pieces, Op. 43

Joan Tower - Fantasy
[ " " ] - Wings

ugh, its been a while since i've been active in the clarinet world, and i can't think of the names of a couple more pieces i'd love to recommend. thats all i've got for now.
posted by jruckman at 2:47 PM on July 17, 2005

jruckman: It's a thing of beauty. My nightmares were caused by seeing the sheet music.

gentle: If you've not heard Francaix before I suggest digging it up. Technically, it's one of the most difficult clarinet works out there, but when played well just blows you away.
posted by blender at 5:01 PM on July 17, 2005

Slightly off-topic, but you may want to check out classical saxophone pieces. The sound isn't too dissimilar (to my largely untrained ears). I particularly enjoy the Berlin Saxophone Quartet playing Bach's Art of Fugue. It's absolutely gorgeous.
posted by ajp at 10:57 AM on July 18, 2005

Response by poster: jruckman: Yeah, dull as in flat, uninspired. I admit the French Suite is the most interesting piece, but it's still a little anemic. Sorry.

Chiaroscuro is celestial; and if you like jazz and woodwinds in general, you may want to look at at Trygve Seim's Different Rivers on ECM. One or two of the tracks has got percussions, but it's generally all blowers: sax, trumpets, tubas, clarinets and so on arranged in a quiet, multilayered soundscape.

Will check out the other stuff. Thanks.
posted by gentle at 6:13 PM on July 18, 2005

There’s a newish CD out featuring Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Clarinet Concerto. I wasn’t immediately taken by the piece, although it has received at least one very favourable review, and you may find it worth checking out, even though it’s not exactly fireside wine-sipping music.
posted by misteraitch at 4:52 AM on July 19, 2005

yeah, i'd agree that their performance (thurston) is a bit anemic -- different rivers is excellent, thanks
posted by jruckman at 1:22 AM on July 22, 2005

oh -- and no apologies needed gentle, anyone w/ a skeptical ear is more than ok by me :)
posted by jruckman at 1:27 AM on July 22, 2005

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