Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2009 ICA High School Solo Competition (by Marguerite Levin)

(winners of the ICA High School Solo Competition)

2009 ICA High School Solo Competition

Marguerite Levin, Coordinator

The Preliminary round of the 2009 ICA High School Solo Competition was held in May of 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. Applications were submitted on compact disc and judges were unaware of contestants’ names or country of residence. Required repertoire was the Hommage a A. Khatschaturian for Solo Clarinet by Béla Kovάcs and the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Leonard Bernstein. Judges were Edward Palanker, Baltimore Symphony; Allison Yacoub, Morgan State University; and Kyle Coughlin, Howard Community College. Judges selected 7 finalists to advance to the final round.

The Final round was held on Wednesday, August 12, 2009 in the Coservatório de Mύsica do Porto. Judges were John Scott, University or North Texas; Elizabeth Crawford, Ball State University; and Marie Picard, Quebec Conservatory. The three winners, all from Portugal, were: First prize of $1000, Carlos Ferreira; Second Prize of $750, Sara Araύjo; and Third Prize of $500, Diogo Ferreira. The other four finalists were Samuel Marques of Portugal; Xu Li of China; Joseph Samucha of Hong Kong, and Gustavo Cesar Yescas Nuñez of Mexico.

All performers and teachers are to be commended for the high level of playing heard on the application CDs as well as live in Portugal. The performances were truly remarkable especially when considering that some of the competitors were as young as 14 years old!

This coordinator is thankful for the collegial atmosphere of the judges and of their willingness to serve our profession. Many thanks to all.

(Marguerite Levin, coordinator of the HS Competition)

ClarinetFest in Porto (by Michael Webster)

I had the unexpected pleasure of serving as a last minute replacement on the judging panel of the Research Presentation Competition along with Julia Heinen and Mary Kantor. There could not have been more diversity of subject matter:

The Musical World of Aage Oxenvaad by Gregory Barrett
Chalumeau and Soprano: A Look at Antonio Caldara's "I'o t'offesi" by Elizabeth Crawford
Cavallini Years in Brazil: Which one? by Fernando José Silveira
An Analysis of Elliot Carter's "Gra" by Kenneth Long
A Quantitative Analysis to Demystify Reed Design by Blake McGee
Anatomy of the Clarinet by Stephen Fox (a finalist who was unable to attend)

In my mind, all of the presenters were prize winners, because I learned a huge amount of new information from each one of them. All of the lectures were well prepared and delivered. But we had to choose winners, so the panel, which was chaired by Jane Ellsworth, selected:

1) Fernando José Silveira
2) Gregory Barrett
Honorable Mention: Blake McGee

Probably because the venue was difficult to find, the audiences were small, but those who attended were very appreciative of the uniformly informative presentations. In future years, I recommend that ClarinetFest attendees try to fit a visit to the Research Presentation Competition into your schedule, because, if this year's competition is any indication, you will be richly rewarded.

Of the events that I attended (and I missed most of the evening events due to extreme fatigue), my favorites were:

Carlos Cordeiro played Stockhausen's Kleine Harlequin, which requires memorizing extremely difficult music, dressing in Commedia del Arte garb, and dancing while playing. The dancing includes notated rhythmic foot stomps, spinning, jumping, standing on tip toe, squatting, kneeling, sitting, marching, standing on one foot and many other moves, all while playing the clarinet. Carlos added some personal touches: tossing and catching his clarinet and an incredible leap from the ground to the stage. For all its virtuosity, the performance was most outstanding in its depiction of the changing moods of the protagonist, eliciting a chorus of bravos and four curtain calls.

Eric Mandat's recital contained his usual blend of clarinet virtuosity and compositional originality, including the world premiere of Four Tempers, assisted by his Southern Illinois colleague, percussionist Ron Coulter, and two of his graduate students, James Applegate and Paul Petrocelly, both playing bass clarinet. Eric played the solo clarinet and bass clarinet part and together the four gave a visceral account of this exciting new work.

This performance was followed by Oyuz Büyükberber playing his own works and improvising on both clarinet and bass clarinet. This Turkish musician has a huge imagination, broad tonal palette, and dazzling technique.

On the whimsical side, Clarinetes ad Libitum, provided intense enjoyment with a combination of fabulous clarinet playing in a variety of folk styles, singing, drumming, dancing and comedy. Accompanied by a percussionist, the four clarinetists all sang and drummed at times, but most importantly played with great virtuosity, and from memory. Particularly outstanding was the Eb clarinetist, but since the names were not on the program, I can't identify him.

Finally, the closing event, Orquestra Invicta All-Stars, brought ClarinetFest to a stirring and joyful conclusion. The group consisted of Antonio Saiote and 29 of his students and former students along with guest artist Justo Sanz. It was astonishing to hear arrangements in which every single player was called upon to play devilishly fast passages in perfect coordination with each other. The ensemble had no conductor, but rather was led at various times by motions from Maestro Saiote, who sat in the center, or from other players with leading voices. But my favorite aspect of the performance was the excellent blend and intonation of such a large number of players. It really created a magnificent sound. Mr. Saoite gave a touching closing speech in Portuguese and English, including bringing Guy de Plus to the stage to be honored. Saiote told the story of three masons who were asked what they were doing. The first said, "I'm laying a brick." The second said, "I'm building a wall." The third said, "I'm building a cathedral." Mr. Saiote has built a cathedral of clarinet playing in Portugal and deserves a huge accolade for his achievement.

Finally, a word of thanks to the employees of Casa Da Musica, especially Alvaro Campo, who helped the Webster Trio get oriented our first day there, gave us a tour of the building, and worked tirelessly throughout the week to help keep things running as smoothly as possible.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Clarinet.Ballistix Streaming Concert

First, thanks to John Scott for the frequent updates from Porto! We may still have some posts coming in from others as they make it back home.

For you clarinet night owls out there, we would like to let you know about a project from the Australian National University's music school which includes a streaming clarinet concert tonight, Aug. 15, at midnight CST. (This is technically 12 AM CST/ 1 AM EST on August 16.) The program includes works by Bassi, Beethoven, and several new works, including a Bela Kovacs piece called After You, Mr. Gershwin. The performers are Alan Vivian, clarinet; David Periera, cello; Alan Hicks, piano; and Katherine Day, piano.

What's especially exciting about this project is that it is more than just a concert. The Clarinet.Ballistix blog has program notes, bios, video interviews with the musicians, and interactive features that encourage an online discussion before, during, and after the concert. Anyone can submit questions to the musicians, or write a concert review. It's a neat experiment, and we encourage everyone to participate, even if you can't view the concert live.

The concert is at 3 PM in Australia, so the timing is awkward for those of us in the Americas. But if you would like to watch the streaming concert, go here to find the link. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Porto: Day 3.5 al fine (by John Scott)

The finals of the High School Competition was a real pleasure to hear. Seven finalists were selected representing Portugal, Mexico and China. They played the Khatschaturian/Kovacs Hommage along with the second movement of the Bernstein Sonata. First, second and third place winners were all from Portugal – Carlos Ferreira, Sara Araujo and Diogo Ferreira. The standard of playing was exceptional. Congratulations to all, but especially to those winners who are such great ambassadors of clarinet culture in Portugal.

The concert this evening (Wednesday) was soloists with the Banda de Musica Melres, “the blackbirds.” Weber to McAllister, and much in between represented. All of the soloists were fine players and performers as well. Bob Spring and Eddie Vanoosthuyse introduced an exciting new work for two clarinets and band, Freebird.

I must at this point correct information from an earlier writing. All of the bands here are from Portugal. This is obviously a nation that prides itself on wind and percussion playing. The recent resurgence of interest in community, semi-professional and professional bands in the USA has given me great pleasure. Here the movement never stopped.

Programs have arrived. I can now report that the Cavalleria Rusticana performed by Pascual Martinez was identified as being Op. 86 by one C. delle Giacoma.

This morning the Officers of ICA played a variety of works; Diane Barger , Fantasy Trio, Op. 26 by Muczinski; John Cipolla, Gra by Carter, Keith Koons, Three Pieces by Stravinsky, Gary Whitman, Ballad for Clarinet, Harp and Orchestra (arr. piano) Ewazen and Lee Livengood, Sonata by Poulenc. All of you need to know that the ICA is the hands of fine musicians. How fortunate can we be? I must also take the time to congratulate pianist Melissa Livengood, resident ICA Board of Directors collaborative pianist. Thanks to you for your stellar playing.

It’s about time to finish my writing from ClarinetFest 2009. In a few hours I will heading home and missing the last full day of activities. Yes, there were some glitches in organization, and yes, the clarinet playing and music making has been a joy. Just in the last 24 hours I heard a brilliant 14 year old and spoken with Guy Deplus. The world of the clarinet goes on thanks to all of you who love this strange and beautiful instrument. Thank you Carlos and Antonio for a wonderful week in Porto.

The weather is still beautiful. Warm days, cool night, breeze from the ocean . . .

Can weather be bottled? No, but memories can.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Porto: Day 2.5 to 3.5 (August 11-12) (by John Scott)

Porto: Day 2.5 to 3.5 (August 11-12)

Let’s begin with a quick update from yesterday afternoon and evening. Belgian clarinetists Eddy Vanoosthuyse and Jun Gunds performed a great recital of music for clarinet, basset horn and piano (my apologies to the unlisted pianist) - Beethoven, Mozart, Bruch and Mendelssohn. All save the Mendelssohn Concertpiece No. 2 substitutions of the clarinet for oboe (the Prometheus Adagio), voice (“non piu di fiori” from Titus) and viola (Romanische Melodie). It all works. Beautiful playing.

Last evening closed with two programs including two bands, Banda Sinfonica da Bairrada and Banda de Musica dos Arcos de Valdevez. The litany of clarinetists included Nathan Williams, Richard McDowell, Henk Soenen, John Masserini, Stephen Vermeersch, The Stark Quartet, Christelle Pochet, Emile Pinel and Phillipe Cuper. It’s a musical who’s who and who will be.

This morning began with a recital by Nicholas Cox and pianist Artur Pereira in works by Devienne, Horne, Debussy, Macmillan, Bennett and Gregson. Cox is such a fine clarinetist and musical stylist. It is exciting to hear someone with panache – and I do mean the sort panache with good taste. For those of you look for a new lyrical and jazz influenced piece, I recommend Richard Rodney Bennett’s Ballad of Shirley Horn (Chester, 2005). Take note: Mr Cox provided his own programs, hence the details.

Part two of the recital was Pascual Martinez Forteza, second clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic along with his wife as pianist (my apologies to her, we are back to no programs). Widor, Yuste, Stockhausen and a set of variations on themes from Cavalleria Rusticana (sorry, an arrangement I did not know). Spectacular clarinet playing – tone, intonation, technique. It just doesn’t get any better at least to these ears.

Reporting on all of the events. Is not possible; too much good music in too many places. The Journal will have a full report soon.

I am off in a few minutes to judge the High School Competition at the Conservatory located a few blocks from here. All reports are that the finalists are stellar -more on that later.

Another beautiful day. Can weather be bottled?

John Scott

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday. Mid-day in Porto (by John Scott)

Tuesday, Mid-day in Porto. Awoke to a view of sailboats on the ocean.

Today at ClarinetFest began with a beautiful performance by the Webster Trio, Leone Buyse (flutist), Michael Webster (clarinetist) and Robert Moeling (pianist). Michael's new transcription of the Debussy Petite Suite is so well written and was very well played. It is to be published soon. Buy a copy. No more to say there. The last work on their program was Birds of Paradise by Robert Sirota. It was commissioned by the Websters in honor of the 20th anniversary of both the founding of the trio and their marriage. It is a wonderfully effective piece, another fine contribution to this repertoire. Elegant playing and impeccable intonation and ensemble.

Trio(Des)concertante with Sergio Neves, clarinetist; Ana Luisa Marques, cellist; and Carisa Marcelino, accordianist concluded the first concert of the day playing works by Paulo Jorge Merreira, Carlos Marques and Carlos Marecos. The combination is really wonderful rich sound. All three of the players were outstanding. The attention to detail and nuance deserves special mention. The music is virtuosic and brilliantly played. These American ears of mine were enriched.

I spent much of the remainder of this afternoon exploring the neighborhood in a search for the Porto Conservatory facilities where the performance competitions are scheduled. The semi-finals of the Young Artist's Competition are complete with no results posted yet. I heard a bit of one of the players performance of the Francaix Theme and Variations. If what I heard is the standard, the judges has a difficult job ahead. The finals are to come as is the High School competition. The standard of playing is still on a steady rise. A model for the world economy.

Only four more concerts to go today.

We still experience problems with the organization of the conference, no program books yet, exhibits are not quite ready and . . . breath deeply and listen to wonderful music.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday: Guest Posting by John Scott

ClarinetFest began with a gathering of all in the Casa da Musica in Porto for registration at 1:00 p.m, and at 3:00 p.m. and at 4:00 and . . . , well you get the idea. Through a series of mishaps, registration did not take place as planned. We are all register beginning tomorrow morning. One never knows what causes these things, but running any sort of conference brings its own set of problems. As Miss Scarlet said "tomorrow is another day."

In spite of all this, what really counts did happen. The opening concert tonight began at 9:30 p.m. The Orquestra do Norte conducted by Antonio Saiote performed with three clarinetists. David Silva performed Weber's Concerto No. 1 Op. 73 in a brilliant manner playing flawlessly - "that's the way it goes" as we would say. Second on the program was a performance by Selmer artist Phillipe Berrod who played Rossini's Introduction, Theme and Variations - brilliant technique is the word of day - a bit too fast for my taste - would that I had the technique to bring it off in such a dazzling manner. The program closed with David Krakauer playing several klezmer solos with all panache one would want - an encore with Krakauer, Berrod and Maestro Saiote closed the evening - soul music!

Yes, I did say conducted by Antonio Saiote. One of Portugal's greatest clarinetists and clarinet teachers is also a fine conductor. Tomorrow when I see him to congratulate the maestro I'll be sure to ask him if he uses a #3.5 or a #4 baton. Bravo Antonio.

The temperature holds in the mid 80's with wonderful cooling in the evening. O blessed day . . . more tomorrow. Registered or not the music will go on.

Guest Posting by John Scott

Greetings from Porto, the beautiful capital of the North or Portugal. For those of you around the clarinet world who are not attending ClarinetFest 2009, I been have asked to provide a bit of information and, perhaps, a few personal asides from this annual gatherings of clarinetists and friends of the clarinet from throughout the world. Thus far I have spoken with clarinetists from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Canada, France, and the United States. More of the world will soon appear as events unfold.

My time in Porto thus far has been dedicated to getting here, getting adjusted to a new time zone and doing some city touring. Porto is located North of Lisbon at the confluence of the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean, and boasts a population of more than a quarter of a million residents with a metropolitan area of about one million. The city is filled with hills, shops, restaurants, churches, museums, concert halls and as welcoming a population as you will find anywhere. Walking here is not for the “faint of foot.” It’s all easy for half the time. Down is good; up is a challenge. Gravity always wins. Buy a good pair of shoes and learn the Metro or hail a taxi. It’s worth it!

Registration takes place this afternoon and the first event of this conference is scheduled for this evening. The remainder of the week includes concerts, recitals, competitions and lectures related to the clarinet. Often fests focus on some specific topics, style period or genre. This year is no exception with the great tradition of wind bands in Portugal and Spain providing the centerpiece of the week.

I’ll keep you posted. Oh, did I mention that Porto, specifically the Vila Nova de Gaia across the river via the Ponte Dom Luis I designed by G. Eiffel, is where the world’s port wine comes to mature?

The weather here is wonderful, highs in the low 80’s and lows in the 60’s. For those of us from Texas, could this paradise?

John Scott, Monday August 10, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

ClarinetFest 2009 in Porto, Portugal

We are excited to announce our live blogging coverage of ClarinetFest 2009 in Porto, Portugal! While we are unable to attend this year, we have recruited several guest bloggers to submit reports from Porto. Check back to see who, and to read their posts about ClarinetFest 2009! If you are there and wish to submit a guest post of your own, send us an e-mail at Saude!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Metal Clarinets

Come across a metal clarinet lately? Most people have only seen metal clarinets used as a decorative lamp base, probably stowed away in grandma's attic. However, metal clarinets are legit instruments worthy of respect. One web site dedicated to the instrument,, presents a historical overview and useful information on metal clarinets. Here you will find a chronological overview of manufactures (Selmer, Silver King, Buescher, Conn, etc.), brand specifications, current market value, and numerous photos. This site also holds links to related web pages, a vintage metal clarinet forum, classifieds, and instruments for sale.

Not sure what a metal clarinet sounds like? Often favored by jazz musicians, this type of clarinet has a timbre akin to the saxophone. features an audio clip of a metal clarinet being played on the homepage. You can also watch videos of an eccentric clarinet-playing cab driver ( playing metal clarinets via the "Purple Page" link located in side-bar menu. And don't forget to test your own ears in the link to Kyle Coughlin's web page (previously reviewed by Clarinet Cache) where his Metal Clarinet Test compares metal and wood clarinet sound files.

If you are interested in another perspective concerning the history of metal clarinets, check out the article "The Clarinet that Made History" by Eberhard Kraut. This noteworthy article takes a look at the history of metal clarinets sprinkled with anecdotal reflections on George Lewis's use of metal clarinets in forging the sound of jazz in New Orleans.