Greetings to everyone in Austin, and following along at home! The ClarinetFest has gotten off to a great start today, with clarinetists of all ages and nationalities descending upon the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas. I (Rachel) arrived yesterday for a dress rehearsal of the piece for clarinet and computer I will be performing tomorrow, and was greeted by volunteers, technical assistants, and Nathan Williams himself who was making sure everything was running smoothly. Things seem very organized so far, with great-looking program books and lots of volunteers helping out.
This afternoon, I was able to catch the Host Recital as well as Richard Nunemaker's performance. The Host Recital began with Nathan Williams performing a new piece for clarinet and piano by Karim Al-Zand (Rice University), commissioned by a collective of clarinetists. Titled Cabinet of Curiosities, the work at times took inspiration from dance rhythms (waltz, sarabande) but with unique twists and compelling sonorities. Next was Richard MacDowell with Francaix's Theme and Variations, performed with great character and brave tempos! Williams then played another new work, Cookbook by Kenji Bunch, a virtuosic set of movements about food. The piece took a surprising turn at the end when the pianist AND the page turner began clapping and tapping rhythmically along with the clarinet! Two standard works rounded out the program, Bartók's Contrasts (MacDowell) and Mendelssohn's Concert Piece No. 2 (MacDowell and Williams). Overall, the new works were very well-received, and the crowd (which nearly filled Bates Recital Hall) was very appreciative of the hosts of ClarinetFest 2010.
Next, I heard Richard Nunemaker's performance of Richard Lavenda's (Rice University) Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet. This substantial work evoked Bartók in its motivic vitality and dissonant, angular sonorities. Particularly nice was the second movement, which featured clarinet multiphonics in combination with string harmonics.
There is so much going on here at ClarinetFest that Kellie and I can't possibly see and hear everything. If you would like to share your ClarinetFest experience, please comment below or send us an e-mail! Enjoy the festival!