Clarinet Concerto

for orchestra and clarinet soloist

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Instrumentation: 3 flutes (III=piccolo), 2 oboes, 3 clarinets in Bb (III=bass clarinet), 2 bassoons; 2 horns in F, 2 trumpets in C, 2 trombones, tuba; 3 percussion, piano/celesta; strings; clarinet soloist

Duration: c. 19 minutes (in three untitled movements)

Year of Composition: 2010

Written for clarinetist David Krakauer

Other versions: The first and second movements have been adapted by the composer for clarinet and piano and given the names Leviathan and Early Winter Spires, respectively.

Composer’s Note:

“In 2001, at the age of twelve, I became a die-hard fan of David Krakauer.  My admiration originated from a riveting performance he gave of Osvaldo Golijov’s The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado.  After the performance, I took a lesson from David in which I played a song by Turkish Roma band The Erkose Ensemble.  I learned three specific things in that lesson: (1) the basics of circular breathing, (2) that David is an incredibly gifted teacher, and (3) that there is a huge difference between Klezmer music, which he champions, and Turkish Roma music.  David subtly encouraged the awareness that as humans we must fight the tendency to lump distant cultures into one unified “other.”  As I was just beginning to delve passionately into the music of Eastern Europe, specifically Bulgarian wedding music and Serbian brass band music, understanding this was paramount – the region, as a whole, is only superficially musically unified; a closer look reveals that it is a complex tapestry of distinct musical cultures and traditions. 

I continued to seriously study classical clarinet playing and was accepted to Bard College Conservatory.  For the first three years at Bard, I was both a clarinet performance major (studying with David Krakauer and Laura Flax) and a composition major.  A dream was born, from the minute I decided to come to Bard, that I would one day write a clarinet concerto for David.  That dream has materialized much faster than I could possibly have imagined.

I knew from the outset that the concerto would not have a conventional solo clarinet part.  It is expressly written with David Krakauer’s unique personal clarinet language in mind. The intuitive and highly musical logic to his language allowed me to fairly accurately predict much of his ornamentation and elaboration.  However, his style is full of wonderful surprises.  He continues to unlock unexpected dimensions of the piece.

Much of the material in this concerto is inspired by my lifelong thirst to experience as much music, from as many different cultures and styles, as possible.  If I had to draw up a recipe for the piece, it would look something like this:

  • Crêpes à la Clarinet Concerto
  • cooking time: 1 year
  • Ingredients:
    • 2 parts Bulgarian Wedding Music
    • 1 part Klezmer
    • 1 part Philip Glass
    • 3 parts Icelandic post-rock
    • 1 part Hildegaard of Bingen
    • 2 parts math metal
    • 4 parts exuberant inexperience
    • 10 parts David Krakauer being awesome

Directions:  Place all of the ingredients in a Joan Towertm brand cement mixer.  Drive it from Bard to Olana and back with the speedometer never above 0.005 mph (any faster and the math metal and exuberant inexperience will combine into a radioactive foam.)  Knead the mixture until smooth with a stirring motion of the top of the skull.  Throw a third of the mixture away before serving it in a giant silver crêpe.  Suggested wine pairing: 1808 Beethoven Pastoral.

Joan Tower, my composition teacher throughout the writing of this piece, deserves special thanks.  I am eternally grateful to her for her belief in my voice as a composer.”

-Conor Brown, September 1st, 2010.

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