Recommend some clarinet music
July 6, 2013 1:33 AM   Subscribe

I've recently started playing the clarinet and am looking to expand my ear. Please share your favorite clarinet music of any genre: classical, jazz, "world musics", etc. (I'm not into easy-listening/classical-lite/smooth-jazz type stuff, though.) Assume complete ignorance of all repertoires on my part, so references to old tried-and-true indispensables (both artists and pieces) of various genres will be accepted with pleasure, as will leads to more out-there little-known-genius/masterpiece types. Bonus points for artists with an especially lovely tone or a creative/distinctive melodic conception.
posted by zeri to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You need some klezmer!
posted by charmedimsure at 1:39 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mozart Clarinet Concerto
posted by thelonius at 1:54 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

In jazz, the original New Orleans jazz bands of the early 20th century played music that generally featured clarinet and cornet/trumpet leads, with, piano, bass and drums as a rhythm section. So, the many "Hot Five" style groups with prominent clarinetists like Sidney Bechet. For bigger halls, they added a trombone, and perhaps a guitar, baritone or bass horn, or maybe a banjo, for extra sound colors, becoming "Hot Sevens." Search on these terms, and you'll find many bands of that era, like Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven, playing what's become known as "Dixieland," or "original jazz." And don't miss Wikipedia's list of classical, jazz and popular clarinetists, which is a good source of links to additional music and resources. A lot of guys, like Benny Goodman and Pee Wee Russell who came up in the 1920s and 1930s, were classically trained, and initially played with symphonies, chamber orchestras, and radio orchestras, before going on to careers in popular music.
posted by paulsc at 1:56 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've found a lot of enjoyment listening to Giora Feidman, who works both in classical and klezmer idioms, his voice sounding particularly unique to me in the latter.
posted by metaman livingblog at 2:36 AM on July 6, 2013

Overture from the opera "zampa" (giuseppe verde) has a lovely and challenging clarinet solo in the middle and a wonderful part throughout.
posted by chasles at 3:00 AM on July 6, 2013

Brahms' clarinet quintet.

Poulenc's clarinet sonata.
posted by Gyan at 3:29 AM on July 6, 2013

I like von Weber's clarinet concertos.

Benny Goodman is always a good choice. Two I'd particularly recommend are Bach Goes To Town (to hear bass etc. clarinets playing together) and Get Happy (which has my favorite Goodman clarinet solo in it.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:51 AM on July 6, 2013

"Wagon Wheels" by The World's Greatest Jazz Band.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:00 AM on July 6, 2013

It's bass clarinet, but Eric Dolphy's "On Green Dolphin Street" is my favourite version of my favourite jazz standard.
posted by GamblingBlues at 6:33 AM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Hindemith clarinet quartet.
posted by Dashy at 6:45 AM on July 6, 2013

Bass clarinet is a beautiful instrument. I saw Marcus Miller play it live on that bass-off tour he did with Clarke and Wooten. I think he played it on Tutu.
posted by thelonius at 7:05 AM on July 6, 2013

Check YouTube for David Orlowsky. I particularly like his sound on this recording of "Noema".
posted by dilettante at 7:12 AM on July 6, 2013

Oh, and it could also be worth digging through Artie Shaw's less well known music.
posted by dilettante at 7:20 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I play(ed) clarinet, and I was always frustrated that almost all clarinet music sounded awful. There is something about that instrument that grates on my ears. But a good rendition of Rhapsody in Blue always hits the spot. The version I have is from a CD called "Rhapsody In Blue, An American in Paris, Porgy and Bess (Orchestral Suite)".
posted by gjc at 8:10 AM on July 6, 2013

the fantastic german free jazz musician peter brotzmann plays clarinet, among other reed instruments. here's a solo clarinet clip from 2010. might want to read up on free jazz on wikipedia too for a little context.

edit: whoops, that's actually a tarogato. here's a clarinet piece
posted by noloveforned at 8:36 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Petroloukas Chalkias is a master of the traditional Greek clarinet style, he's also done some interesting work investigating relations between Greek and Indian traditional music.

Yorgos Maggas also desevers mention, not only for technical prowess but also for being the best dressed clarinet rock star ever - at about the 4 minute mark you'll understand what I'm talking about.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2013

Best answer: For jazz, in addition to Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, mentioned above:

Barney Bigard

Johnny Dodds

Jimmie Noone

Buddy DeFranco

Woody Herman

Pee Wee Russell

Edmond Hall
posted by Longtime Listener at 9:58 AM on July 6, 2013

James Falzone is one of the best clarinetists here in Chicago; earlier this year he formed a new all-clarinet supergroup called the Renga Ensemble which also includes Chicago reedists Ken Vandermark, Jason Stein, and Keefe Jackson, plus Ben Goldberg from San Francisco and Ned Rothenberg of New York. Great stuff. Peter Brotzmann is essential listening as well.
posted by deliciae at 2:44 PM on July 6, 2013

Debussy's haunting Premiere Rhapsodie. (Links to YouTube clip of performance by Wendel Fuchs.)
posted by marguerite at 4:46 PM on July 6, 2013

So, my clarinet playing experience is limited to sub-mediocre performances in 6th grade band class, but is it weird to suggest "When I'm 64"?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:57 PM on July 6, 2013

Mozart Clarinet Quintet. Beautiful.

+1 Benny Goodman
posted by kdern at 5:37 PM on July 6, 2013

Best answer: I play clarinet, perhaps I can assist you:

Nthing - if you can only take one piece to a desert island - Mozart Clarinet Concerto, with the Mozart clarinet quintet close behind (both on a number of very good recordings, but David Schifrin did them both on one album a few years back - he uses an extended range clarinet that is a bit more authentic. DM me for the LONG story about the difficulty in the "urtext" of the clarinet concerto K622... or google it.

also - look for an album by Franklin Cohen - Brahms Clarinet sonatas #1 & #2; Schumann "Fantastiestucke" (Fantasy Pieces).

- Richard Stoltzman with the Tokyo String Quartet - Brahms Quintet & the Weber Quintet
(I'm kinda fond of clarinet quintets - Mozart, Brahms, and Weber are kind of the big three).

Stoltzman provokes some love/hate reactions; I'm pro-Stoltzman because I feel he plays with emotion and (gasp!) vibrato, which for a variety of weird reasons, mostly historical, is Not Done in the minds of many classical players.

- Gerald Finzi "5 Bagatelles" - look for an album by Howard Griffiths from 1998. This is a string orchestra version (it's commonly done as a piano version), and there's some other good lesser-known pieces in that album too.

- look for an album by Sabine Meyer and Julian Bliss (Krommer and Spohr clarinet concertos). Krommer is a clarinet duet with orchestra, then they each play one of the Spohr concertos with orchestra alone). For extra credit, listen carefully to the difference between Meyer's playing on a German system clarinet, and Bliss playing on the French system (which is what's commonly used in the US). Bliss is incredibly, incredibly young. Kind of a child prodigy, although he's in his late teens or early 20s by now I think.

My taste kind of peaks in the romantic era and conks out where atonality picks up, so be advised... but none of the above is "lite classical" in my book.

If you're interested in someone current/recent - Anthony McGill. Perhaps most famous for playing (actually "synching," but who can blame him as it was friggin' COLD) at Obama's first inauguration. (It WAS his playing, but it wasn't live)

I'm much more "into" classical/chamber clarinet, but some of the main clarinetists of the big band era (in which the clarinet was far more prominent) and more recently:

Benny Goodman (of course) and Artie Shaw. - big band era.
Eddie Daniels - prominent in the 80s and 90s.

If you like off-beat stuff, google/youtube for clarinet quartet music. It doesn't seem like this would sound that good, but it's a really strange and appealing musical texture to me...
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:53 PM on July 6, 2013

Response by poster: Lots of great recs, thanks all! (And keep them coming!)
posted by zeri at 2:34 PM on July 7, 2013

I love Anat Cohen.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:50 PM on July 7, 2013

There is a lot to be said of and by the clarinet, and it is too little said. All of these are among my favorites (well, I do have a lot of favorites) and are not among the excellent recommendations above.

Aaron Copland
Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp & Piano
First pensive, atmospheric, and gorgeous, then increasingly playful. Written for Benny Goodman in 1947–1949.

Olivier Messiaen
Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps
Composed and premiered in 1941 in a German POW camp where Messiaen and three other musicians were prisoners. One of the great chamber pieces of the 20th century. Like most of Messiaen’s work, it draws on liturgical subjects and his fascination with birdsong, which he studied intently and transcribed into his pieces. Famous as an example of the dramatic dal niente articulation that is only practical on the clarinet, where the note begins from silence without an audible attack.

Osvaldo Golijov
The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind
Composed in 1994 for clarinetist (playing “normal” and bass clarinets) and string quartet, it draws heavily on klezmer techniques and idioms. The version by Kronos Quartet is well known and excellent but I prefer the linked recording.
Composer’s website

Paquito D’Rivera
is a Cuban clarinetist and alto saxophonist. I’m a big fan of Habanera, recorded with the Absolute Ensemble.

Vandermark 5
Reciprocal (for Santiago Calatrava)
Chicago-based free jazz multi-instrumentalist Ken Vandermark goes absolutely nuts on bass clarinet.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Salvation and Reminiscing
Another multi-instrumentalist, and one of the great under-appreciated figures of jazz. From the album Prepare Thyself to Deal with a Miracle. I can’t say anything useful about RRK’s music. Just go listen to it!

Iannis Xenakis
Xenakis was a Greek architect/engineer who applied advanced mathematics to music theory to develop very individual sounds and notation.

Also, you should listen to Paul Hindemith’s clarinet concerto, and both of Malcolm Arnold’s clarinet concertos. Poulenc wrote a lot of good chamber music for clarinet besides the sonata mentioned above.
posted by musicinmybrain at 6:29 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

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