• A Report by Mary Kantor

      Every year the Seattle clarinet community is treated to an annual miniconvention – a two-day festival of all things clarinet. Sean Osborn organizes and directs this free event. Vendors, guest artists and master classes fill up a weekend in early fall now in its 11th year. This year’s guest artist, Jože Kotar, from Slovenia was a very special guest indeed.  Sean Osborn’s well-attended master class in the University of Washington’s Brechemin Auditorium on Saturday October 1 included the following salient points which he covered with the participants:

      • Long tones are of the utmost importance in achieving complete control of the instrument. A good long tone exercise for legato in big intervals is:
      1. Play C2. Stop the note, but keep the embouchure
      set. Restart C2 in both forte and piano. Do the same for C1 2. Slur up the octave C1–C2 forte, then piano.

      • Know everything about your piece, the composer, the historical period it came from, what all the musical terms mean in the music, and what the accompanying harmonies are. This turned out to be much needed advice for many! Buy a good edition of your piece!

      • In relation to interpretation of an opera excerpt, successive articulated notes of the same pitch need to be differentiated and separated in varying  degrees, in order to approximate the phrasing of the aria by a singer.

      • There are three kinds of notes:

      a. notes that decay
      b. notes that lead to the next note
      c. the stand-alone note–the note that says, “Here I am.” An example is the first note of the Mozart Concerto.

      3:00 Jennifer Nelson Master Class, Brechemin Auditorium
      Salient points covered in the class were:

      • How to achieve complete control of the fingers through slow exercises and awareness of weakness in certain fingers, such as the fourth finger
      • Keep the instrument in good repair to aid technique.
      • Proper body position in the neck. Don’t bend the head down, and position the feet so that balance is maximized.
      • Again–know everything about your piece!
      • A philosophical thought: “Should a student play pieces written for the A clarinet on the B-flat?”

      Evening concert October 1, Brechemin Auditorium

      First on the program, Sean Osborn’s Character Duets. Each of the six duets represents wonderful clarinet players from ll genres whom Sean has ably captured in musical portraits. Jože, Eric, Jim, Jesse, Frank and Jennifer were represented. The duos were played dazzlingly by Sean and Jennifer Nelson, professor of clarinet at the University of Washington. Then the Grand Duo Concertante, the prototype for piano/clarinet virtuoso duet playing, was performed by Sean Osborn and Rhonda Kline with fluid musicality and fire. After the intermission, another great duet was featured (did I mention this year’s theme is duets?). The Mendelssohn Concertpiece No. 2 in d minor followed with Sean O., clarinet, Mary Kantor, basset horn and Rhonda Kline, pianist, harkened to the playful and energetic virtuosity of this well-known Baermann, father and son, plus Mendelssohn  collaboration.  The guest artist, Jože Kotar, appeared with Sean on the Gary Schocker Sonata for Two Clarinets and Piano as the final “serious” part of the program. It was a thrill to hear these two great clarinet players perform the most difficult technical passages with ease. Last on the program was a special clarinet choir arrangement of a Paul Mc- Cartney hit by Sean Osborn. Conducted by William Blayney, local Buffet Artist and conductor, this super fun arrangement went off very well with only one rehearsal. All those who attend Clarinetissimo (which is free and open to the public) are invited to participate in the choir.

      Jože Kotar Master Class, October 2,
      2:00 Brechemin Auditorium,

      Major highlights of this class were:

      • Create surprises with dynamics; Keep a steady tempo; Relax into the easier parts which come after difficult sections.
      • Practice slowly; Give more weight to the harmonically important notes; Make a difference in character from section to section. Be strict with rhythms.
      • Concerning Dances of Galanta, don’t play too “nice.” Think of the word Magyar–accents and rhythms–throw down a glass! Find dramatic breathing  places.
      • Choose correct articulations and note lengths. Emphasis can make any difficult style (such as Mozart) better. The best fingerings are usually the most ergonomic and in tune.

      Jože Kotar Recital, October 2, Brechemin Auditorium

      I  was really anticipating this recital with great excitement, as I had heard Jože in two previous clarinet conventions, Oklahoma and Stockholm, and he was a standout both times. First on the program was the Poulenc Sonata which was realized by both Jože and Rhonda Kline with great beauty and  sensitivity. Then came four pieces that are less well known but all of them proved to be delightful “hidden treasures” in the clarinet repertoire which  deserve much wider recognition.  Aforizmi by Zlatan Vauda consists of five short pieces, playful and witty, with short virtuosic passages highlighting the immense range of the clarinet. Then came Croatian composer Ante Grgin’s 1945 Tema con Variazioni, an approachable, upbeat piece with a bluesy slow section, followed by a simple folk melody which was simply beautiful, and ended with a fast virtuoso section. Grgin was principal clarinet in the Belgrade Philharmonic.  After intermission came Igor Deklava’s 2004 Solo pour la Nuit. Deklava is the piano professor at the University of
      Lyubliana. The piece was written to commemorate Slovenia’s entrance into the EU. There is optimism, conveyed through ebullient slap tonguing, joyous high staccato arpeggios and playful multiphonics.  The last of the hidden treasures was Jaka  Puçihar’s 2001 Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. Puçihar is a young Slovenian professor of theory, composition and arranger.  The piece reminded me of the Horovitz Sonatina and the Baker  Clarinet Sonata, two of my favorite pieces in the modern genre. There were jazzy rhythms and harmonies throughout as well as octatonic scales. All well worth searching out!  As the grand finale of this great weekend of all things clarinet, we were treated to Amilcare Ponchielli’s Il Convegno. What a treat to hear this well-known piece played with panache by Jože and Sean – both grand masters of their instruments! A fitting end, indeed.


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      Revised: December 14, 2011