In a faculty recital at White Recital Hall this Sunday, Jane Carl, UMKC Conservatory of Music professor of clarinet played the world premier of All My Wooden Horses (2013) by her once student, Brad Baumgardner (b. 1980) and gave a workshop in how the clarinet should be played.
Pianist Patricia Higdon provided the other half of the duet throughout the evening, easily accompanying, anticipating and finishing phrases that were handed off to her. In addition to her considerable ensemble requirement at the conservatory, she is half of the Hall/Higdon Duo (with flutist James Hall) which gave its Carnegie Hall debut about ten years ago.
She began the recital by announcing that she had written program notes, but that they were boring, so she would just tell the audience a little about the music. Of the five works she would play, only one of the composers was no longer living, Carlos Gustavino (1912-2000) who composed the final number, Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1970).
Two Elegies for Clarinet and Piano (1999/2009) by Adam Neiman (b. 1978) was just what you would expect, but better. The clarinet provided pear-shaped notes with trilled embellishments that never interrupted the melodic flow.
Mr. Baumgardner's premier piece consisted of three movements, "Phylacteries," "Auguries," and "Alchemies." Phylacteries are amulets worn for protection, presented ironically, how can such a device actually protect a person?
"Auguries," began with chromatic solo scales in somewhat abrupt scales with the piano joining after a few measures, sometimes disconnected, but complementary. "Alchemies," the ancient chemical pursuit of making gold from dross, was full of choppy and jumpy sounds, perhaps suggesting a laboratory where a mad scientist had accomplished his goal, almost.
Four Autumn Landscapes (2007) by Chris Rogerson (b.1988) made non-prosaic sound descriptions of "A Cold Creek," "Maple Creek," "Scattered Leaves," and "December Woods." Rogerson's music could well have been composed for a film with the same named sections, and the sounds of babbling water and blown leaves would have seemed a ballet for those inanimate dancers.
Berceuse, Op. 119, composed by Lowell Liberman (b.1961) in 2012 was a sweetly chromatic number, calling for much chalumeau register (low) often avoided, due to its tendency to be dull, by clarinetists and composers for clarinet. Ms Carl had a surprisingly full, mellow sound, not forced, not blatant.
Sonata para clarinete y piano (1970) by Carlos Guastavino, an Argentinian song composer, benefitted from his song skills, reminiscent of some of Beethoven's folk-song based vocal works, not complicated, just fun to listen to.
Throughout the evening, Jane kept an even timbre, even the impossibly high notes, were never shrill, never irritating, and fit nicely into the note sequences.