About this Recording
9.70211 - MIHALOVICI, M. / SMITH, W.O. / HAMILTON, I. / MCKAY, G.F.: Clarinet Sonatas (Spece, Gainsford)

Music for Clarinet and Piano


Marcel Mihalovici (1898–1985)
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 78

The French composer Marcel Mihalovici was born in Romania, in Bucharest, and in 1919 moved to Paris on the advice of his compatriot George Enescu. His teachers at the Schola Cantorum included Vincent d’Indy and in 1921 he won the Enescu Prix National for his Sonata for Violin and Piano. He joined Beck, Martinů and Tcherepnin in the Ecole de Paris group of foreign composers and later collaborated with Milhaud, Honegger and Ibert in a chamber music society. He married the renowned concert pianist Monique Haas, who spurred his compositional style and musical imagination. As a proponent of neoclassicism, he also applied rhythmic innovation to his compositions, offering additional difficulty for the performer. His stage works included collaboration with Samuel Beckett con Krapp’s Last Tape. His Sonata for Clarinet in B flat and Piano, Op. 78, written in 1959, is in three movements, and is an exceptionally powerful, and sometimes raucous composition.

William O. Smith (b. 1926)
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano

William O. Smith lives in the Seattle area and is known for his cutting edge compositions as well as his alter ego, Bill Smith, who performed and worked with Dave Brubeck. The Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, written in 1948, has remained hitherto unrecorded and was also unpublished until Richard Spece transcribed it for Ravena Editions in 2012. Smith is an important innovator in compositions for the clarinet, including his ground-breaking use of multiphonics and other extended techniques for the instrument. Spece’s doctoral thesis is about the works of William O. Smith and his knowledge of the composer informs the present recording.

Iain Ellis Hamilton (1922–2000)
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 22

Iain Hamilton was born in Glasgow, but raised largely in London, where, in 1947, he turned from a career in engineering to study of music at the Royal Academy, winning considerable distinction, not least with his Clarinet Concerto in 1951. In 1961 he moved to the United States, where he remained for twenty years, serving as a professor at Duke University and living in New York City. A prolific composer, with twelve operas to his credit, he wrote his four-movement Sonata for Clarinet and Pianoforte, Op. 22, in 1955.

George Frederick McKay (1899–1970)
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in Two Movements, Op. 15

George Frederick McKay wrote his two-movement Clarinet Sonata around 1930, during his 41-year professorship at the University of Washington, in Seattle. While there he not only founded the University’s Composition Department, but also mentored members of the next generation of accomplished musicians and composers, including composers such as William Bolcom and John Cage. Later in his career, McKay embarked on a more atonal and liberal compositional style with the Clarinet Sonata being one of his final predominantly tonal works.

Ava Spece
November 1, 2013

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