“F. Gerard Errante, New Music for Clarinet – Another Look” – Works by USSACHEVSKY, HAILSTORK , ERRANTE & Others – Ravello

by | Aug 14, 2016 | Classical Reissue Reviews

A valuable collection of some of the most avant-garde clarinet work.

“F. Gerard Errante, New Music for Clarinet – Another Look” = WILLIAM O. SMITH: Solo for Clarinet with Delay System; Asana; VLADIMIR USSACHEVSKY: Four Studies for Clarinet and EVI; ADOLPHUS HAILSTORK: A Simple Caprice; DANA WILSON: Piece for Clarinet “alone”; F. GERARD ERRANTE: Souvenirs de Nice; SYDNEY HODKINSON: The Dissolution of the Serial – F. Gerard Errante, clar./Lee Jordan-Anders, p./William Albright, p./ Nyle Steiner, EVI – Ravello  RR7941, 60:25 (8/12/16) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

The booklet notes to this very unusual collection begin by reminding us (reminding me!) of the 1976 book, “New Sounds for Woodwinds” by Bruno Bartolozzi; which I own (somewhere) and haven’t even thought about for over forty years. Similarly, these works are all, in their own way, landmark compositions in the style that was the “latest thing” in the 1960s and ‘70s. The style of clarinet playing in which F. Gerard Errante was/is an absolute master depends heavily on the player’s ability to perform a vast array of extended techniques such as multiphonics, pitch bending, quarter tones, and a command of the extreme altissimo register. Errante was one of the first and one of the best who could do such things along with composer/performer William O. Smith and Philip Rehfeldt, to name but a few.

I have played some (not many) of the pieces that require such techniques and can vouch for the extreme difficulty of playing in this way; especially controlling multiphonics. Therefore, having heard F. Gerard Errante before, I remain in awe of his unique abilities. Most of the works written by the most avant-garde composers of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s were writing music to either invoke some very “electronic” sounding effects or to experiment with the blending of acoustic instruments into an electronic soundscape (like all those works for instruments “with prerecorded tape”) In some cases the blending is so smooth as to be hard to distinguish a ‘normal’ clarinet from the synthesizer generated sounds it is playing against and so forth. We also saw a lot of strange experimentation with creating instruments which were sort of a hybrid between the acoustic and the electronic – like Nyle Steiner’s “Electronic Valve Instrument” (EVI), heard in the Ussachevsky piece.

The other thing to realize about most pieces requiring extended techniques and the extreme difficulties it sometimes represented is that, frankly, a lot of those works could only be played by the Errantes and Rehfeldts out there and works and got little to no repeat performances in other venues. This collection does include two works for the more traditional combination of clarinet and piano; those by Adolphus Hailstork, whose work I admire greatly, and Sydney Hodkinson, in which the pianist must do some pretty unusual and creative things himself.

The recordings here are archive recordings, re-released from tape originals by Errante as “another look” at these specific works which he feels are still valid and hold possibilities for today’s younger, talented performers. Of the works here, I do like those by Hailstork, William O. Smith and Gerard’s own Souvenirs de Nice. This album is a real niche offering for clarinetists who may already be familiar with the fairly wild early to mid 1970s avant-garde scene and can appreciate the very unique abilities of players like F. Gerard Errante. Just like the orchestral music of that same time, I fear that – for the uninitiated listener – these are a potentially tough listen. I like this collection and I’ve always admired Errante and Phil Rehfeldt but I think it helps if you were “there.”

I’m going to now go look for my Bartolozzi book.

—Daniel Coombs

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