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Sonata for Clarinet and Piano ​Arnold Bax (1883-1953)

Arnold Bax was born in London on November 8, 1883. He studied piano and
composition at the Royal Academy of Music and also developed a love for the writings of W.S.
Yeats, an Irish poet. His love for Ireland shines through in his music, often inspired by the Irish
countryside and folk songs. He also visited Ireland in his youth, to ultimately return shortly
before his death. Bax is most well-known for his symphonic tone poems, often invoking pastoral
scenes, and six symphonies which were inspired by his overwhelming emotions from World War
I, a heated affair with great pianist, Harriet Cohen, and his love for Jean Sibelius’ music.
He wrote ​Sonata for Clarinet and Piano ​in 1934 for Hugh Prew, an amateur clarinetist
and fellow cricket teammate. Frederick Thurston, a well-known English clarinetist, and teacher
at the Royal College of Music would ultimately premiere the piece, twice on the same June 17,
1935 concert thanks to the sheet music of the other piece being lost in the mail. The Sonata is in
two movements, unlike the traditional three-movement sonata form. The first movement, ​Molto
Moderato, ​opens with a stunning, soaring theme that returns throughout the movement, and
again at the very end of the piece. The second movement, ​Vivace, ​opens in a contrasting style,
with a running sixteenth note theme that is heard all around the movement. Incidentally, the last
tone poem he ever wrote, titled ​A Legend (​ 1944), opens with a clarinet solo eerily similar to the
sixteenth motive in the second movement. The clarinet and piano are very conversational in this
piece, often operating at equal importance. These two movements, though they have contrasting
themes, initiate similar moods.

Sonatina for Clarinet Solo, Op. 27 Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995)

Miklós Rózsa was born on April 18, 1907, in Budapest, Hungary. He took up the violin at
the age of five in addition to piano and viola several years later. Rózsa was particularly interested
in the music of Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók because of their dedication to authentic
Hungarian rather than the “pseudo-Hungarian gypsified music” of other composers. Rózsa went
on to study chemistry in Leipzig, Germany eventually transferring to the conservatory to
continue his musical studies. He was incredibly successful with his chamber compositions,
ultimately being published by Breitkopf & Hartel, a large German publishing company. In the
early 30s, his work was praised and performed by Richard Strauss, Charles Munch, Karl Bohm
and later, Leonard Bernstein. In the mid-late 1930s, Rózsa began examining movies and the role
music played in them, eventually writing his first score for ​Knight Without Armour​ (1937),
which was extremely successful. He worked in London and Hollywood for the rest of his career,
being nominated for seventeen academy awards, winning three times for ​Spellbound​ (1945), ​A
Double Life​ (1947), and ​Ben-Hur​ (1959). Rózsa was able to balance his movie composition and
concert music careers, producing a great number of works through the rest of the eighteenth
Rózsa wrote two pieces for clarinet, his ​Sonata for Clarinet Solo ​(1986) and ​Sonatina for
Clarinet Solo​ (1957). The ​Sonatina i​ s the first of several unaccompanied pieces he wrote for
wind instruments, which often took inspiration from the Hungarian Folk music and is often
without accompaniment. The piece was dedicated to film composer Bronisław Kaper. The first
movement of the ​Sonatina, Tema con variazioni, ​or Theme and Variations, begins with the
understated, lyrical theme which grows and develops into seven variations. Rózsa employs
techniques from both film score writing and concert music writing in this piece, using a number
of modes in the variations, combined with the Hungarian anapestic rhythm, a short-short-long
motive, and another short-long-short-long rhythm.

Trio in A Minor, Op. 114 ​Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Johannes Brahms was a German late-Romantic composer born on May 7, 1833. Brahms
is known as a composer of symphonies, concertos, chamber works, and a rather famous lullaby.
His works in nearly every genre have become staples of the literature, including his works for
clarinet. All four works, ​Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano, Op. 114, Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115,
Clarinet Sonata No. 2, Op. 120 No. 1, Clarinet Sonata No. 2 Op. 120 No. 2, w ​ ere all written for
the principal clarinetist of the Meiningen Orchestra, Richard Mühlfeld. This situation was a
similar composer-clarinetist relationship to that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Anton Stadler
and Carl Maria von Weber and Heinrich Baermann.
Brahms first met Mühlfeld in 1888 when the Meiningen Orchestra premiered Brahms’
Fourth Symphony and played his Second Piano Concerto. The two were formally introduced in
1891 hen Brahms asked Muhlfeld to perform a private concert for him. A few short months later,
Brahms presented Muhlfeld with the Quintet and Trio. The first movement of the trio is built
around an ascending arpeggio and descending scale motive that is transformed throughout the
piece. The entire piece is unbelievably Romantic, invoking warmth from the low register of the
cello combined with the expressivity of the clarinet and piano.

Solo de Concours ​Henri Rabaud (1873-1949)

Henri Rabaud was born in Paris, France on November 10, 1873, to musical parents. His
father, Hippolyte Rabaud, was the professor of Cello at the Paris Conservatoire and his mother
was an accomplished singer. Rabaud would become a musician himself, entering the Paris
Conservatoire in 1892, studying composition with Jules Massenet and Andre Gedalge. Just two
years later, Rabaud would win the prestigious Prix de Rome for his cantata, ​Daphne.​ He would
go on to become the conductor, and later director at the Paris Opéra and at the Opéra-Comique.
Rabaud also led Boston Symphony in 1918 and became a brother of the Phi Mu Alpha music
fraternity. In 1922, Rabaud returned to the Paris Conservatoire to become its director.
Rabaud was a strong French composer who attempted to distance himself from German
compositional technique. He succeeded in doing so with ​Solo de Concours ​for clarinet and piano,
written in 1901. The piece was written for Charles Turban, the clarinet professor of the Paris
Conservatoire at the time. The title, ​Solo de Concours, ​is French for ​contest solo​ and was to be
the final examination piece for clarinetists at the Conservatoire. Students were required to pass
assessments in sight-singing, musical analysis and sight-reading on their instrument to ultimately
reach the final examination piece. It was again used in 1908, 1915, 1925 and 1937. Rabaud’s
Solo de Concours h​ as prevailed as a staple of clarinet literature in the 21st century thanks to its
incredible flair, style, and technique required of the performer. This piece is a bit odd in its form,
starting with a flashy cadenza over pedal tones in the piano and moving into a slow, expressive
section. It ultimately ends with a fast, bright and cheery pentatonic theme that is varied
throughout the rest of the piece.