UPEI’s Department of Music Recital Series begins its 2012–13 season on Saturday, September 15 at 7:30 pm, in the Dr. Steel Recital Hall, with Clarinet Spectrum: Lyrical Traditions, featuring the faculty duo of clarinetist Karem J. Simon in collaboration with pianist Frances Gray.
As its title suggests, this performance will showcase many lyrical pieces from the clarinet repertoire, including two masterworks for clarinet and piano. Francis Poulenc’s Sonata was among the last pieces written by this French composer. It is imbued with typical French flare capturing the salon style of mid-twentieth century France. Poulenc, a pianist, exploits the technical and expressive qualities of the clarinet supported by idiomatic piano effects.
Johannes Brahms wrote two sonatas for clarinet and piano as a result of his fascination with Richard Mühlfeld, one of the leading clarinetists of the late nineteenth century. Mühlfeld was an accomplished violinist, but was able to play the clarinet so well that he assumed the principal chair of the Meiningen Orchestra, among the finest European orchestras of its time. It is believed that he possessed a compelling artistry, which inspired Brahms to suspend his retirement and compose some of his finest chamber music. The two Sonatas Op. 120 integrate clarinet and piano seamlessly as it is the resulting composite that is truly remarkable. Brahms was a virtuoso pianist with particularly large hands and both sonatas place immense demands on the pianist. That Brahms, himself, participated in the first performances of these sonatas is indicative of the high regard he had for them. While the first sonata, which Simon and Gray performed this past summer, is the more passionate of the two, the second—featured during this recital—is much more intimate. Brahms uses the melancholy character of the clarinet tone to weave melodies spanning several octaves that evoke moods that are warm and welcoming. The dialogue between clarinet and piano represent deeply profound yet highly sensitive exchanges.
Other works on the program include transcriptions of Claude Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair and a baroque work by Georg Phillip Telemann, both of which Simon will perform on the smaller E-flat clarinet. Another piece, Denneriana by André Bloch, is a typical French contest piece exploiting the virtuosity capable on the clarinet.
The performers are long-serving members of the UPEI music faculty. Gray is well-known for her breadth of work as a soloist, collaborative pianist, and chamber musician, while Simon, who performed this summer at the International Clarinet Association’s conference, is also recognized as a conductor and music educator.