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Clarinetist Jeff Anderle brings another Faculty Artist Series recital to SFCM

Clarinetist Jeff Anderle
Clarinetist Jeff Anderle
courtesy of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

I last reported on a Faculty Artist Series recital at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) by clarinetist Jeff Anderle in September of 2011. Anderle, who is also an SFCM alumnus (’06) is a vigorous proponent of what I like to call “adventurous modernism,” which often boldly explores new approaches to the very act of making music. For most of his recital he was accompanied by alumna Kate Campbell (’04) on piano.

However, the evening began with a solo performance of Anna Clyne’s “Rapture,” in which the only accompaniment was provided by electronic equipment. This included both prerecorded source material and pickups that transformed the sound of the clarinet. While setting up for the performance, Anderle observed that Clyne’s intention was for the clarinet to sound more like an electric guitar, which explained both the sonorities produced by the pickup near the bell of the instrument and the control pedals next to Anderle’s left foot. The result was an enthusiastic burst of high-energy shredding against an almost elegant texture of electronic sounds that clearly distinguished this music from any suggestions of heavy metal.

This was followed by “Time Pieces,” a four-movement work that Robert Muczynski composed for clarinetist Mitchell Lurie in 1985. While the punning title suggests that these were four separate units, the structure clearly reflected the traditional architecture of a sonata, embellished with an extended cadenza before the Allegro energico of the final movement. The philosopher Paul Ricœur like to distinguish between the literatures of stories about time and stories in time. It would be fair to say that “Time Pieces” is both “about” and “in,” seeking out a unique rhetoric of rhythmic patterns while, at the same time, endowing that rhetoric with an in-the-moment spontaneity.

That sense of immediacy was also evident in Anderle’s approach to Tristan Perich’s “Perhaps,” the only piece for bass clarinet on the program. However, that synthesis of “about” and “in” returned with far wittier rhetoric in Guillaume Connesson’s “Techno-Parade.” For this performance Anderle and Campbell were joined by alumna Jill Heinke (’06) on flute. As the second word in the title suggests, this piece was based on (“about”) a vigorous two-beat rhythm; but it also involved the exchange of some wild jazzy riffs between the two wind players, all of which had to take place within the techno framework of the unrelenting two-beat metre. What emerged was a far more elaborate sense of rhythm that made this piece and exhilarating romp.

All that energy deserved a quiet coda, which was realized through Anderle and Campbell performing Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” (mirrors in the mirror). Originally written for piano and violin, this music lends itself to the violin part being played by other instruments. That latter part consists entirely of the slow passage of long notes moving stepwise through scale degrees while the piano weaves a fabric of arpeggios punctuated by “chime tones” that alternate between the lower and upper registers. As I have previously observed, the result is one of the best examples of what Pärt has called his “tintinnabular” style; and it provided a welcome sense of calm following the preceding high-energy pieces on the program.