This Bass Clarinet Concerto is virtuosic, but not necessarily in a typical concerto sort of a way. Rather than lots of flashy runs and fast passagework, it features a virtuosically wide range of colors and approaches to the instrument, from aggressive grooving to lyrical soaring to altissimo wailing. Like many performer-composers before me, I sought to draw on my own strengths and idiosyncracies as a player to create music that, while technically impressive, was also quite comfortable and enjoyable to play. Especially notable are the extreme altissimo passages, with the instrument regularly playing in a range that would be considered high even on a “regular” Bb clarinet; and the use of “throat harmonics,” a technique that uses changes in throat position to create buzzy overtones of the fundamental pitch in the manner of a throat singer or didgeridoo player. The work is classically concerto-like in its conception, with a sense of dialog and interplay between soloist and ensemble. It is structured similarly to Aaron Copland’s 1948 Clarinet Concerto, with a slow, lyrical first movement leading directly into a solo cadenza, which culminates in a fast and energetic second movement.
solo bass clarinet, large orchestra: 3 fl (pic), 3 ob (EH), 3 cl (B Cl), 3 bsn (C Bn), 4 hn, 3 tpt, 3 tbn, 1 tba, timp + 3 perc; strings
Jonathan Russell and Princeton University Orchestra on October 17, 2014