|About this Recording
9.70144 - Chamber Music with Clarinet - BEETHOVEN, L. van / GLINKA, M.I. / HO, Chee-Kong / HINDSON, M. / LYSIGHT, M. (Clarinet North-South-East-West) (Luxen)
Clarinet North-South-East-West is inspired by my career as a solo, chamber, and orchestral clarinetist and teacher in Europe, Asia, and Australia. In 1998 I moved from Belgium to Asia to become a founding principal member of the (now internationally-acclaimed) Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then I have been invited to perform and give master-classes in Australia, China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. This is an exciting time to be a part of Asia’s vibrant and expanding music scene and I feel privileged to have the chance to continue making music with, and by, inspiring musicians from North, South, East, and West of the globe.
Deepest thanks to my friends Li-Wei (China/Australia), Bernard Lanskey (Australia), Ho Chee Kong (Singapore), Simon Cobcroft (Australia), Kiyomi Kikuchi (Japan), Zubir bin Abdullah (Singapore), Matthew Hindson (Australia), Shane Thio (Singapore), and Michel Lysight (Belgium) for joining me in this musical celebration.
Clarinet North-South-East-West is dedicated to my audiences, students, and colleagues in Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Beethoven completed his Trio for piano, clarinet, and cello, Op. 11, in 1798 and dedicated it to his patron Countess Marie Wilhelmine von Thun. The composer also provided a part for violin as a possible substitute for clarinet, an alternative that was perhaps intended to expand performance possibilities for customers in the thriving chamber music market. The Trio was published in Vienna in 1798. It was, however, the newly emerging wind instrument for which the piece was conceived. Recently plucked from the orchestral ranks, most notably by Mozart in his Clarinet Quintet of 1789 and the Clarinet Concerto of 1791, the clarinet infuses the traditional piano trio’s scoring with fresh timbral and expressive potential.
The work is launched in exuberant style by clarinet, cello, and piano in unison, but the mood soon passes as Beethoven introduces his listener to the first movement’s other contrasting qualities of tenderness, gaiety, and radiant lyricism. It is the latter that prevails in the second movement. At the beginning the cello’s rich timbre lends warmth to the simple main theme, which is echoed as if from another world, by the pure tone of the clarinet. The third movement’s theme gives the trio its nickname ‘Gassenhauer’ (Street Song). In fact the melody is taken from the aria ‘Pria ch’io l’impegno’ (‘Before Getting Down to Work’) from Joseph Weigl’s popular comic opera L’amor marinaro, first performed in Vienna in 1797. The jaunty tune flourishes in its new home where it appears in a number of guises, singing with plaintive and then humorous simplicity before being subjected to merciless (but brilliant) dissection at the hands of the master, and eventually tumbling its way over the finishing line. It is not difficult to imagine the master himself at the keyboard in this movement, taking the opportunity to display his technical virtuosity.
Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857)
Mikhail Glinka is widely recognized as the first major Russian nationalist composer. It is, however, in Italian opera that the main inspiration for his trio of 1832 lies. Composed during a three-year visit to Italy (1830-33) it is possible that the trio and its title sprang from thwarted love—a theme so familiar to the dramatic Italian genre. The score inscription ‘Je n’ai connu l’amour que par les peines qui’il cause’ (‘I have known love only through the sorrow it causes’) adds currency to this suggestion.
Whereas Beethoven’s trio was conceived for piano, clarinet/violin and cello, Glinka had in mind the piano with two wind instruments (clarinet and bassoon). The piece is also often played by violin and cello or, less frequently, as here, by clarinet, cello, and piano. Both the quasi-orchestral effect of these combined forces and the sensitive contrasting of the individual instruments’ expressive ranges enhance the music’s drama, which is palpable from the outset. The work’s opening character of defiant strength manages to prevail throughout the first movement despite frequent lapses into nostalgic reminiscence. A mood of whimsical playfulness pervades the Scherzo until the final moments, which arrive with a sense of foreboding. It is here that the stage is set for the third movement’s bel canto outpouring of emotion that at last fulfills the promise of the trio’s title. For listeners who have by now become embroiled in this unfolding drama, the fast fourth movement will end all too suddenly as its swift final descent brings down the curtain with full tragic impact.
Ho Chee Kong (b. 1963)
Singaporean composer Ho Chee Kong has received numerous awards and commissions for works that have been performed internationally and locally. His compositions include works for both Western and Asian ensembles. In 2005, he was the organizer for the Composers Exchange Concerts between Singapore and Japan and was the Chairman of the organizing committee for the 29th International Computer Music Conference in Singapore in 2003. He was music advisor to the award-winning Huqin Quartet and was composer-in-residence with the Philharmonic Chamber Choir. He served as Vice-President and Regional Director for Asia/Oceana on the Board of the International Computer Music Association from 2004 to 2007. Recently he has been appointed to the Board of Directors for the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and is the founding President of the Composers Society of Singapore. He is currently Associate Professor and Head of Composition at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore.
Many lives, especially in Asia, were disrupted and displaced owing to the catastrophic nature of the natural disasters in 2005. Some survived the disasters while others, tragically, did not. For the many of us who have been fortunate to continue life as usual, I hope that we can take pause occasionally in our busy schedules to remember those who have been deeply affected by these disasters.
Given its première in Tokyo in 2005, Echoes of Fall is mostly somber throughout, except for a small section in the middle of the piece that is loosely based on a rather lively folk-tune. The hypnotic sway of the melodic and rhythmic gestures by the clarinet, cello and marimba reminds one of a slice of memory - lost childhood innocence, which very quickly becomes buried again under the somber mood of the music that follows. This work also features the Gambus, a traditional Malay instrument, and is written in such a way that allows the performer to improvise above the written melodies with traditional ornamentations specific to the instrument. In the middle section, there is a soliloquy where the Gambus performer’s improvisation is based on previous rhythmic and melodic materials.
Matthew Hindson (b. 1968)
In a short space of time Matthew Hindson has emerged as a leading Australian composer of his generation. Performed by all the major orchestras of his native country, his music is now finding a global audience. The effect of his invigorating sound-world is immediate and direct. It provokes strong reactions, frequently causing divisions between audience reaction and critical opinion. The music often displays influences of popular music styles within a classical music context, and, as a result, musical elements such as driving repeated rhythms and loud dynamic levels are typically found in many of his compositions. The clue is invariably in the title, with works such as Speed, Rave-Elation, Headbanger, RPM, Rush and Homage to Metallica delivering a high-octane experience that often leaves audiences and players alike in a state of joyous exhilaration.
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a revolutionary video game system that took the world by storm in the 1980s and early 1990s. One of its main features was its use of music: in particular, its design limitations with three monophonic synthesizers and one ‘noise’ chip embedded within the machine itself led to a very distinctive style of music that is instantly recognizable even today by video game aficionados.
Nintendo Music takes as its starting point some of these musical styles and features, and translates them across to a work for clarinet and piano. In addition, this piece uses the structure of video games themselves to create the structure of the music. A popular game format on the NES was the platform game, in which the player’s character moves about a variety of scenarios, jumping from object to object, avoiding enemies and typically fighting a ‘boss’ at the end of each level. (Super Mario Brothers and MegaMan are examples of platform games). Nintendo Music uses aspects of music distinctive to each stage of playing such a platform game. The opening, for example, evokes the startup screen after the machine is turned on, the process of selecting a level, and starting the initial level. Sometimes the player dies, but eventually, by the penultimate section (after the clarinet cadenza), the player defeats the end boss, finishing the game.
Michel Lysight (b. 1958)
Michel Lysight received first prizes in harmony, counterpoint, fugue, music history, music pedagogy and bassoon, as well as degrees in music theory, chamber music, and conducting (Royal Conservatory of Brussels) and a first prize for composition (Royal Conservatory of Mons). The discovery of musicians such as Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt was essential for his personal language and has made him one of the figureheads of the New Consonant Music trend. His catalogue includes some one hundred works including chamber, orchestral, concerto, and vocal genres, most of which have been recorded on CD. His Clarinet Concerto was performed in Moscow in 2005 by Ronald Van Spaendonck and his Concerto for bassoon and string orchestra was performed by Pierre Olivier Martens at the 2008 Schleswig Holstein Musikfestival. Michel Lysight is Professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and was Composer-in-Residence at the Paris Conservatory ‘Darius Milhaud’ in 2008-2009.
Solipsism (2009) is a piece in three short movements for clarinet or bass clarinet composed for and dedicated to the great clarinetist Marcel Luxen. The rhythmic language is characteristic of the composer (including the progressive construction of short cells, use of the Fibonacci series, and the repetitive evolution of patterns) who also explores diverse modal and poly-modal types (for example, six-tone and whole-tone scales). Solipsism demands a high standard of virtuosity from the performer. Sudden leaps in register, combined with unexpected dynamic changes give the impression of a dialogue between two or even more instruments. (The score is published by Alain Van Kerckhoven Edition www.newconsonantmusic.com.)
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