Friday, January 13, 2012

François Houle on NPR

Wednesday's episode of Fresh Air on NPR featured clarinetist François Houle and his fascinating new album with pianist Benoît Delbecq.  Listen here.  We also found this short documentary on the recording of this album by Igor Juget.

Because She Hoped - Benoît Delbecq/François Houle duo - new album from Igor Juget on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Clarinet Videos: Best of 2011

It's that time of year again to take a look back at the past twelve months to pick our favorite YouTube videos from 2011.  A couple of the selections made it on our list with only a few days left to spare in the calendar year, but we've manage to sort through all YouTube videos and readers' submissions to select our top picks for the year, featuring clarinetists from Japan, Croatia, Armenia, Italy, the U.S., and the U.K.

1. Clarinet Tongue Position Videos: X-Ray and Ultrasound
This next two videos shows the scientific view of what happens inside our mouths when we play clarinet. 

The first video, featuring research by Ray Wheeler in the 1960's, shows X-ray images of a clarinetist's tongue.  These x-rays were taken while the player bends notes, plays glissandi, and also vocalizes the sounds as well.  Offering a unique look into how the tongue and throat positions affect pitch and tone quality, this video is great starting point for teachers and students alike.

More recently, Joshua Gardner presented his work on ultrasound imaging of clarinet tongue position at ClarinetFest 2011, with a test subject of none other than Robert Spring!  If you're one of the many that watched his warm-up video and wondered how does he do it?, now's your chance to find out!  This is the first of four videos, so visit YouTube to see the rest.

2. Brahms Quintet Reimagined by ZRI

It may sound like sacrilege: rearranging the Brahms Quintet for a "gypsy" ensemble including accordion and santouri (a type of hammer dulcimer).  But ZRI's version, injected with incredible passion and flair, is mesmerizing.  Named for the tavern at which Brahms was known to listen to gypsy bands, ZRI's live shows juxtapose their version of Brahms with the sort of raucous gypsy tunes which influenced Brahms' composition of the Quintet.  The video below uses the Music Animation Machine to provide a visual representation of the sound of the second movement of Brahms' Quintet as performed by ZRI.  Also check out this video to get a feel for ZRI's high-energy live performance!

3. Quintette 7 is Late for a Parade

We blogged back in February 2011 about the West Point Band ensemble Quintette 7, which specializes in the music of Raymond Scott.  This video is a humorous take on life as a military musician, set to excerpts of Quintette 7 playing several pieces by Scott.

4. Japanese Bass Clarinet Showdown

Set to the dramatic background music of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, this video clip of game-show contestants attempting to play the bass clarinet demonstrates that not everyone has natural talent when it comes to playing an instrument.  Quizzical looks from the contestants as they awkwardly hold the bass clarinets give away their lack of familiarity with a woodwind instrument and the tension builds when the first girl fails to make a sound.  Watch this short clip to the end and you will quickly discover who is declared the winner.  Please, somebody give her a lesson!

5. Corrado Giuffredi & Saxofollia -- Guisganderie

We came across this video with the help of Morrie Backun posting it to his Facebook page.  Just barely making it in time for our list, this video was posted two days before the new year and has already garnered over 441 viewings.  Featuring clarinetist Corrado Giuffredi playing Faustin and Mauri Jeanjean's Guisganderie accompanied by the Saxofollia quartet, this video was recorded in the Guiseppe Verdi Theatre in Italy.  This fun, but technically challenge piece does require some alternate fingerings to facilitate the rapid passages, and a thread found at goes into further details about recommended fingerings.

6. Yeghishe Gasparyan - "Yeghishi Par"

This video was taken at a live concert in Rostov City, Russia, featuring the famous Armenian clarinetist Yeghishe Gasparyan. We don't know that much about Yeghishe, but his technique is certainly incredible, and the sound quality of this live video is very good.

7. Duo Gurfinkel - Paganini/Levitas Caprice 24

This virtuosic duo performance is made all the more remarkable due to the fact that Alex and Daniel Gurfinkel are identical twins and only twenty years old.  They are sons of Israel Symphony principal clarinetist Michael Gurfinkel, and we look forward to hearing more about them in the future!

8. Preparing for Auditions with Ricardo Morales

One of the biggest clarinet stories of 2011 was the news that Ricardo Morales was hired as principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic, beginning in September of 2012. Who better to teach us about taking an audition than Morales himself?

9. Jazz for Cows

The most viral clarinet video of the year was definitely "Jazz for Cows," which has received over 4 million views since it was uploaded in September. Watch as the New Hot Five mesmerizes a group of cows in France with their Dixieland jazz.

10. Mihael Paar--Jingle Bells

And finally, before the holiday tunes have faded from our memory, check out Croatian clarinetist Mihael Paar's rendition of Jingle Bells.  This professionally-made video has great audio that highlights his smooth sound and polished technique. His unique arrangement of Jingle Bells seamlessly weaves several variations of the classic tune together and is complemented nicely by the video footage of the recording process. For more information about Paar and his current projects, visit his website at 

That's all for now! Comment to let us know what we've missed, and visit our "Best of 2011" playlist to hear many more of our favorite videos from the past year!