Richard Stoltzman gave a lesson in what can be done with a clarinet if you love it and spend your life exploring its potential.
On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13, in Rollins College’s Tiedtke Hall, the Bach Festival Society Orchestra with conductor John V. Sinclair accompanied Richard Stoltzman, who gave a lesson in what can be done with a clarinet if you love it and spend your life exploring its potential.
The program consisted of two quite disparate halves. Stoltzman skipped the usual Mozart and Weber and served up interesting contrasts in contemporary clarinet compositions.
The music at the program’s beginning often sounded as though it were looking for a tune. After intermission it found what it was seeking.
“Clarinet Concerto” by Aaron Copland was the first offering. As with much of Copland’s “serious” compositions, the music begins slowly, with the orchestra in fourths and fifths, with large, leaping intervals and clarinet squeals, giving the listener a vague, even uneasy, feeling that, without melodiousness, can soon become ennui. A virtuoso cadenza of clarinet arpeggios and notes on the edge of impossible included jazz licks and welcome hints of “El Salon Mexico” ending with a smashing glissando á la “Rhapsody in Blue.”
“Clarinet Sonata” by Leonard Bernstein ended the first half with music that, at first, sounded more like Copland than Bernstein, but later led to inventions of the young Bernstein with Broadway licks, 5/8 time and hints of “West Side Story”.
After intermission came a series of “evergreens” by George Gershwin filling the theater with memories of the composer’s great scores for Broadway and movies.
The beautiful young Gershwin “Lullaby” was played by orchestra alone.
Stoltzman contributed “Bess You Is My Woman Now” from Porgy & Bess, with great feeling and wide-ranging color.
“Promenade,” from “Shall We Dance,” a movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, was a jaunty moment of fun.
The program closed with the immortal “Summertime” from Porgy & Bess in a fine catchy arrangement by Richard Stoltzman’s son, Peter.
Those of us who enjoy the Guest Artist Series of the Bach Festival Society are glad for the rare opportunity to attend such engaging and interesting concerts.