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Patrick Hanudel
American Record Guide, November 2010

The Mendelssohn Concertpieces, the Ponchielli Convegno, the Farkas Early Hungarian Dances, and the Poulenc Sonata for two clarinets have long been standards for clarinet chamber recitals; and the Libby Larsen Yellow Jersey, the Alfred Uhl Divertimento, and the Piazzolla Histoire du Tango, arranged by Bruce Edwards after the saxophone quartet version by Claude Voirpy, are beginning to become contemporary classics.

This meeting of friends, though, shows that more gems await. With funding from a McKnight Presidential Fellow Award and the University of Minnesota, Metropolitan Opera principal Ricardo Morales, Atlanta Symphony principal Laura Ardan, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra principal Timothy Paradise, Metropolitan Opera bass clarinetist James Ognibene, University of Minnesota Duluth professor Theodore Schoen, and MIT professor and Bang on a Can All-stars founder and clarinetist Evan Ziporyn all team up for a recital of 20th Century and 21st Century works that push the “expressive and virtuosic potential” of the instrument.

Besides the Piazzolla Histoire du Tango in the Edwards arrangement, the program includes John Harbison’s Trio Sonata (1994), a neo-classical teaching piece or concert work for any instrumentation—here cast for two soprano clarinets and bass clarinet; the Gunther Schuller Duo Sonata (1949), a youthful opus for soprano and bass clarinets that revels in atonality, chromatic counterpoint, jazz rhythms, and the occasional triadic passage; the Thomas E Barker Single Six (1982), a work for solo unaccompanied bass clarinet written for Schoen that fuses mathematical complexity with jazz; the brief Vincent Persichetti Serenade No. 13 (1963) for two clarinets, whose clinical pandiatonicism and syncopations challenge both performers and listeners; and Ziporyn’s Hive (2007) for clarinet quartet, taking its inspiration from the composer’s beekeeping hobby, getting its premiere at the 2008 Clarinet Fest in Kansas City, courtesy of Ardan, Schoen, Ziporyn, and New York clarinetist David Krakauer.

As one expects from the marquee of names, the entire concert is well played, but the artistic engagement varies. The Piazzolla is too nice and too classical, never once approaching the edgy, dirty, and seductive nature of the dance. The Harbison is also drier than it needs to be, coming across as an etude more than a recital piece. The Schuller on the other hand, is compelling; Arden and Schoen grab the listener from the first notes, exploring the composer’s quirky soundscapes with enthusiasm and sincerity.

Barker, a New York City composer, lived a tragically short life, passing away in 1988 at age 33 of bone cancer, but not before he left four pieces for his friend Ted Schoen, who performs the Single Six on bass clarinet. While Schoen could use more refinement in his playing, he pours his soul into this short abstract work, and the listener will enjoy it on many levels. The Persichetti, rendered by Morales and Schoen, transcends the page more than the band works usually do, making for some truly haunting moments, but the faster movements require even more excitement.

The concluding Ziporyn is an entertaining 17-minute minimalist tour-de-force that pushes the sonic and technical limits of each player, balancing the constant flurry of notes with pulsing rhythms, swelling dynamics, jazz references, unpredictable accents, well-timed texture changes, and extended tonguing techniques. Ardan, Paradise, Schoen, and Ziporyn deliver a strong performance that should make this work an immediate part of the clarinet repertoire.

WRUV Reviews, August 2010

A collection of modern works for or arranged for, clarinets, including a commissioned work by Evan Ziporyn “Hive” from which the CD derives its title. All of these are very interesting works. Trk 12 is edgy and staccato. Play any!

Balaam’s Music, May 2010

…an intriguing collection of twentieth century music for Clarinet and Clarinet Ensemble entitled Clarinet Hive.

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