Friday, May 27, 2011

Playing with the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble

About a month ago, my teacher, Dileep, asked me if I wanted to perform with the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble. The Chicago Clarinet Ensemble was founded in 2007 by Dr. Rose Sperazza who teaches at Northeastern University.  The performance contains mostly college students and adults so it is really exciting to play with them. Everyone has been really nice through the rehearsals even though I'm a lot younger than everyone there. Also, Stanley Drucker, the former principal of the New York Philharmonic, and his wife Naomi Drucker, also an accomplished clarinetist, are playing with us. Stanley Drucker was the principal clarinetist of the Philharmonic for more than 50 years and he has played in more than 10,000 concerts. He even played under Leonard Bernstein! We are performing tonight.

The concert should be a lot of fun. We are playing are Pursuits of Happiness a sextet by Eric Mandat, Hasty Fragments by Edward Yadzinski, Ruth, Rubric-Rational; Realisms-Relationals by Jeff Kowalkowski, Mendelssohn’s duo concerti for two clarinets, which will feature the Druckers, Molly on the Shore by Grainger, and Jupiter from the Planets by Holst. The Mandat, the Yadzinski, and the Kowalkowski are all premiers. I am playing on the Holst, the Grainger, and the Kowalkowski. It is a really fun selection of pieces.

The Pursuits of Happiness is a sextet by Eric Mandat. Performing this piece are Mr. and Mrs. Drucker and Rose Sperazza on Bb clarinet, John Bruce Yeh playing Eb clarinet, his wife Teresa Reilly playing basset horn, and Mr. Tuttle on bass clarinet. There are three movements. The first one is fast and happy and features the Druckers. I especially like it when the Druckers play sweeping notes up and down the clarinets' range extremely quickly while the bass clarinet plays a very low and light harmony. There is one part in the first movement when no one plays except Mr. Drucker. I love this movement. The second movement is slow and intense. This movement seems to probe your mind and look into your deepest hidden feelings. It features Mr. Yeh and his wife very prominently. I can't wait to hear it again tonight.

Yesterday I got to sit on on the Druckers rehearsing the Mendelsson and the sextet.  The Mendelssohn duo concerti are being played by the Drucker being accompanied by the clarinet ensemble. The Druckers are amazing!  Just listening to Mr. Drucker warm-up before the rehearsal was cool. He played five arpeggios in the time it would take me to play one. It was really inspiring to watch him and his wife working with John Bruce Yeh.  I loved every movement of the Mendelssohn concerti, but I especially liked the last movement of the second concerto, the polacca. It was amazing how they moved from register to register without any change in the color of their sound.  I find this really hard to do. They moved beautifully though each register of the clarinet, each dynamic and the different styles of the compositions. I cannot wait to hear him perform tonight!  May I'll even get up the courage to ask Rose to introduce me to the Druckers tonight.  They are legendary clarinetists after all.

Molly on Shore is a quick light piece with a repetitive Irish theme. I am playing fourth clarinet in this song and so I get mostly the beat and the harmony under the melody. This is a great piece, because there is a counter-melody always going on at the same time as the melody. The theme is always consistent but the counter-melody changes and moves in interesting ways. This piece is really good for a clarinet choir because of the beautifully light, pure sound of a a clarinet. John Bruce Yeh is conducting both Molly on the Shore, Jupiter and the Mendelssohn.

Ruth, rubric-rational; realism-relationals is an exotic piece for clarinet choir and synthesizer by Jeff Kowalkowski. It changes time signatures constantly so you always have to be on your toes while performing it. It is a very otherworldly radiant composition. I especially like that there are a couple of duets in the middle of the piece for synthesizer and contrabass clarinet without accompaniment. This makes a really fun combination. I also like the way the composer has combined the Contrabass and Eb clarinets -- not a common pairing! The stark differences in the range of these two instruments create an odd but strangely ethereal effect. At many places in the piece everyone is playing similar parts but not at the same time. That made it very difficult for me to play it yesterday at the rehearsal because I was the only second Bb clarinet there. I think it is an outstanding work.

I love how the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble can sound so much like a full orchestra, especially in a piece like Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from the Planets. Jupiter is a grand and festive piece. I am playing second clarinet on Jupiter and I get a lot of melody which is exciting. The piece is extremely light and carefree for much of it. During a slower section, the clarinets imitate the low strings and brass very well, who play this part in the original version. I love the ending where the clarinets are like a torrent, flying up and down arpeggios. Jupiter has a great ending with a restatement of the original theme in a fast tempo which keeps crescendoing until the last note.


  1. Hey Torin!

    My name is Katia, and I'm 12 years old. I play the clarinet too. (And I live in Chicago!) I read about your experience last year at Interlochen. I'm going for the Wind Symphony and the Symphony Orchestra in the Intermediate division. Are you going back? I really love your blog. By the way, I'm so jealous that you had a lesson with Anthony McGill, he's my biggest role model. Thanks again for writing this awesome blog!

  2. That is really cool that you are going to Interlochen. It is a really fun place! I am going back this year, so I'll see you in the orchestra and wind symphony. Where in Chicago do you live? Do you play with any youth orchestras?

  3. I live in Rogers Park (near Evanston). What session are you going? I play in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. (Debut Orchestra)I'm looking for a chamber ensemble, but haven't found one yet. Where did you find your chamber ensemble(s)?

  4. I get my chamber ensembles through Midwest Young Artists. All the players in the top two orchestras there get a chamber group.

  5. That's cool. MYA sounds really cool, but it's kind of far from my house. What session are you going to this year at Interlochen? I'm looking into chamber ensembles at DePaul's academy.

  6. MYA is my favorite place in the world(except perhaps Interlochen). I will be attending the first session at Interlochen.