Clarinet Chamber Ensembles
In this column we took a look at clarinet chamber ensembles with interesting resources on the Internet. Using the listing of ensembles at the clarinet.org “Links” page along with other sources, we came up with some standout groups that have good audio files and videos online, and may help you discover new repertoire for small clarinet ensemble.
Carolina Clarinet Quartet
In our research for this column we came across Carolina Clarinet Quartet’s website and were impressed by the amount of information located on their page. The PDF file of their music library covers over three hundred clarinet quartets and many entries include timings and brief remarks on each piece. Several of these works have been arranged by Carolina Clarinet Quartet’s founding members Brent Smith and Jim Williams and are available for purchase on the site. Over half of the entries contain audio samples and recordings made by the group, allowing visitors an opportunity to hear excerpts of pieces. These recordings, coupled with the practical annotations, are a great resource for those wishing to expand their knowledge of the genre’s repertoire. Also found on the website is a list of the group’s favorite compositions to play and a link to Smith’s informative article “Clarinet Mouthpiece Materials.” Another useful component of the website is an extensive index of clarinet quartet organizations, searchable by both name and location. Despite the index page not being updated for over two years, this list provides further points for exploration of clarinet quartets, and provides links to their websites.
Chicago Clarinet Ensemble
The Chicago Clarinet Ensemble is a group made up of both professional clarinetists and gifted younger students from the Chicago area. With a flexible approach to instrumentation, the ensemble’s membership ranges from two players to thirty-five or more musicians. Many of the group’s performances have featured guest soloists such as Stanley Drucker and Anthony McGill. Founded by Rose Sperrazza in 2007, the ensemble is in residence at Northeastern Illinois University. Aiding in the promotion of new music, the group has commissioned eight new works and even has a composer-in-residence, Leo Schwartz. His newest compositions are listed on their website, including audio and video footage of two of his works. Visit their website to learn more about their core members, current events and performances, and hear live performances by the group, including a work for clarinet choir and synthesizer.
Clarinetes Ad Libitum
Clarinetes Ad Libitum is a Portuguese clarinet quartet with percussion, performing folk and traditional music of a variety of cultures. The videos on their website show their affinity for theatrical performances -- they often utilize percussion and vocals, and extramusical elements include a fog machine and removal of shirts onstage! You can also stream their entire album “Contradanza” via their website: a good place to explore clarinet quartet repertoire off the beaten path.
The clarinet quartet Ensemble 54 (Josh Kovach, Pascal Archer, David Gould and Nuno Antunes) doesn’t have a ton of information on its website, but they they have a Facebook page and YouTube account where you can find some great videos of their repertoire. These video performances include works by Tomasi and Farkas along with less traditional fare, like a work for clarinet quartet and solo ocarina, and even a duo arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” for A-flat sopranino clarinet and contrabass clarinet!
The Farallon Quintet from the San Francisco Bay Area is a unique chamber group that solely performs clarinet quintet (clarinet plus string quartet) repertoire. The group was founded in 2012 and all of the quintet members are active musicians performing in the Bay Area. Clarinetist Natalie Parker is also principal clarinetist of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. The quintet’s repertoire is not limited to the standard works and they have worked with a handful of composers to commission and premiere new works. They also play lesser-known compositions such as film composer Bernard Herrmann’s quintet Souvenirs de Voyage, which can be heard on a video on their website. The ensemble’s website includes a blog that allows the group to expand upon their musical mission and to highlight new or unknown works and their composers. One blog post alerts viewers the large volume of works found on Earsense, an extensive chamber music database, which currently lists 169 compositions for the genre. This database is a terrific starting point for those researching or looking up chamber music with various instrumental combinations that include the clarinet.
Turning to literature for clarinet duo, the website of the Duo Gurfinkel is a great place to start. These twin brothers from Israel, Alexander and Daniel Gurfinkel, were born in 1992 and by the age of 12 were performing as soloists with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The duo’s website has some great performance videos along with a handy repertoire list including works for two clarinets alone, two clarinets with piano, and two clarinets with orchestra.