Wings for solo
Joan Tower (b. 1938)
Joan Tower, one of the prominent
American composers living today, is known for her solo, ensemble, and keyboard
works. She holds three Grammy awards, Best
Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral
Performance for the Nashville Symphony’s album that included Made in America, Tambor, and Concerto for Orchestra. She has been composer-in-residence with the
Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Deer
Valley Music Festival, Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and Albany
Symphony. Founding member and pianist
for the Da Capo Chamber Players from 1969-1984, she received a Naumburg Award
for their performance in 1973. This
ensemble commissioned and premiered many of her most famous works. Some of her most popular works include Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman, Silver
Lights and Made in America.
Wings for solo clarinet, is also arranged and commonly played
on an alto saxophone or bass clarinet.
This piece was written in 1981 and dedicated to her friend Laura Flax,
who was also a member of Da Capo Chamber Players. In her program notes, Tower states “The image behind the piece is one of a large bird—perhaps
a falcon—at times flying very high gliding along the thermal currents, barely
moving. At other moments, the bird goes into elaborate flight patterns that
loop around, diving downwards, gaining tremendous speeds.” The work demonstrates extreme demands in
technique, control, and endurance for the clarinetist. Wings
uses the entire range of the clarinet and shows off the capability of the
instrument. It is also arranged and
commonly played alto saxophone or bass clarinet and considered one of the most
important works for unaccompanied clarinet.
Sonata in f minor for
clarinet and piano, Op. 120 No. 1 (1894)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Johannes Brahms, born in Hamburg,
Germany, is one of the most recognizable composers in the Romantic period. He showed an aptitude for music at an early
age and began to play piano at the age of seven and later studied
composition. Brahms was inspired by the
compositions of Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn.
By 1891, Brahms had retired and traveled to the Meiningen Court where he
heard clarinetist, Richard Mühlfeld perform.
Brahms was impressed with his playing and was inspired to come out of
retirement to write Trio in A minor, Op.
114 for clarinet, cello, and piano and Quintet
in B minor, Op. 115 for clarinet and string quartet. Both works were premiered by Mühlfeld and
greatly received by the audience. In
1894, Brahms wrote his Sonata in F Minor
for clarinet and piano, Op. 120 No. 1 and Sonata in E-Flat Major for clarinet and piano, Op. 120 No. 2, both
were premiered by Mühlfeld as well.
Sonata in f minor has four contrasting movements that
demonstrate the musicality of the clarinetist.
The first movement, marked Allegro
appassionato, utilizes a majority of the clarinet’s range, showing off the
unique timbre of each register. Movement
two, Andante un poco Adagio, is the
most lyrical, emotional, and expressive of the four movements. Allegretto
grazioso, movement three, is written in ¾ time but felt as if it was in
one. This movement is a ländler, a folk dance that was popular
in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The final movement, Vivace, is
an exciting end to the sonata that demonstrates technical ability in the
clarinet and piano with drastic changes in style and dynamics. This most important work demonstrates chamber
music at its finest.
Concerto for Clarinet
and String Orchestra (1948)
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Copland is known as one of the foremost American composers of the twentieth century. Most known Fanfare for the Common Man, El Salon Mexico, Rodeo, Billy the Kid, and
the Pulitzer Prize winning work, Appalachian
Spring. As an American composer and
pianist, he incorporated a blend of classical, jazz, and folk characteristics
into his compositions. Copland also
received an Academy Award for Best Original Music Score for The Heiress, as well as several other
nominations for other works. In addition
to being an accomplished composer, he was an author, teacher, and
conductor. He was also an avid promoter
of American music abroad.
Copland’s Concerto for Clarinet and
String Orchestra was commissioned by the legendary jazz clarinetist, Benny
Goodman. Goodman, a world-renowned jazz
clarinetist ventured into classical performance, commissioned Copland and Goodman
premiered the piece in 1950 with the NBC Symphony under the baton of Fritz
Reiner. The concerto is orchestrated for
clarinet, strings, harp, and piano. It
is written in two movements that are connected seamlessly by a jazz influenced
clarinet cadenza. The first movement is
slow and expressive and illustrates the musicality of the clarinetist. The
cadenza is very free and starts slow and lyrical then accelerates and becomes aggressive
with the melody that occurs throughout the second movement. The second movement has a prominent Latin
American and jazz feel throughout. It
has driving rhythms and large intervallic leaps, utilizing the entire range of
the clarinet. Stylistic and tempo
changes throughout this movement are crucial and make it an interesting piece
to listen to. The work ends with a glissando
which creates the perfect ending to the concerto. Copland’s Clarinet
Concerto has become one of the most important works in the standard clarinet
Fantasy Trio for
clarinet, cello, and piano, Op. 26 (1969)
Robert Muczynski (1929-2010)
Muczynksi was a contemporary American composer and pianist. Muczynski attended DePaul University where he
studied composition with Alexander Tcherepnin and piano with Walter
Knupfer. He served as a Professor of
music at the University of Arizona.
Nominated and winning several awards and competitions for his
compositions, Fanfare described him
as “… one of our country’s best composers…”
His compositions have received several awards and prizes including a
Concours Internationale Prize for his Sonata
for Flute and Piano and a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra,
Op. 41. His Time Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, was written in 1984 and is an
energetic piece that demonstrates the contrast between technical and aggressive
moments with beautiful and lyrical lines.
Prior to composing Time Pieces,
Muczynski wrote Fantasy Trio for
clarinet, cello, and piano.
While at the University of Arizona, two of his colleagues, clarinetist
Samuel Fain and cellist Gordon Epperson approached Muczynski to write a trio in
the summer of 1969. The trio, divided
into four short movements, became Muczynski’s Fantasy Trio and was premiered at the University of Arizona with
Fain, Epperson, and Muczynski on the piano.
The piece was dedicated to Harry Atwood, “award-winning documentary
filmmaker,” whom Muczynski wrote nine film scores for. The piece includes three independent voice
lines, differences in texture and timbre, syncopated rhythms, offbeat accents,
and mixed meter to give the piece an energetic and jazzy feel.
“Joan Tower.” Joan Tower – Long
Biography – Music Sales Classical. Accessed December 15, 2017. http://www.musicsalesclassical.com/composer/long-bio/Joan-Tower.
“Wings, for clarinet | Details.”
AllMusic. Accessed December 15, 2017. https://www.allmusic.com/composition/wings-for-clarinet-mc0002368665.
in F Minor-
Brahms, Johannes. Sonata in F minor,
op. 120, no. 1 for clarinet in B flat and piano. London: Boosey and Hawkes,
Evans, Edwin. Handbook to the chamber
& orchestral music of Johannes Brahms: historical and descriptive account
of each work with exhaustive structural, thematic and rhythmical analyses, and
a complete rhythmical chart of each movement. Complete guide for student,
concert-goer and pianist. London: W. Reeves, 1933.
Swafford, Jan. Johannes
Brahms: a biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.
Tyndall, Emily. Johannes Brahms and
Richard Muhlfeld: Sonata in F Minor for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 120 No. 1.
Master’s thesis, Columbus State University, 2010.
Aaron. Clarinet Copland. London: Boosey & Hawkes Inc, 1950.
“Clarinet Concerto.” Clarinet Concerto. Accessed March 10,
“Music.” Copland: Clarinet Concerto. Accessed March 10, 2017. http://arts.ucdavis.edu/post/copland-clarinet-concerto.
“The Journal of Music.” Timothy Orpen discusses the Copland
Clarinet Concerto | The Journal of Music. Accessed March 10, 2017. http://journalofmusic.com/listing/08-01-15/timothy-orpen-discusses-copland-clarinet-concerto.
Crossen-Richardson, Phyllis Jane. Selected
clarinet, cello and piano trios: unknown or forgotten. PhD diss., 2004.
Christian. The first piano trio by Robert Muczynski. PhD diss.,
Theodore Presser Company. “Robert
Muczynski.” Accessed March 7, 2017. http://www.presser.com/composer/muczynski-robert/