I wrote Quartet for Four Clarinets as my graduation thesis piece from Harvard in the spring of 2000. As such, I wanted to achieve in this piece a real synthesis of many of the fundamental compositional skills I had been working on as a student. My compositional thinking tends to be very harmonically based, so I especially wanted to try to develop my contrapuntal chops. I studied a good deal of Bach while working on the piece, and the contrapuntal nature of the middle movements owes a good deal to this study. Another important influence on this piece was jazz music, especially Charles Mingus. The improvisatory spirit, the singing, human quality of the melodic lines, and the vitality and energy of jazz was a breath of fresh air for me at a time when classical music was feeling stale. The spirit of Mingus is most obvious in the outer movements, with their swinging, jazzy melodies, but what I learned from studying jazz harmony pervades the entire piece.
Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, A clarinet, bass clarinet
Ari Lippman, Umesh Shankhar, Daisy Stanton, and Jonathan Russell on May 11, 2000