A Nightingale's Rhapsody

Cambria Master Recordings

Jerome Summers, clarinet; Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, Simon Streatfield, conductor

~Ronald Royer – Romance for Clarinet, String Orchestra, Piano and Harp
~Michael Conway Baker – Concerto for Clarinet, Piano, Percussion and Strings
~Oliver Whitehead – Pissarro Landscapes for Clarinet, Piano and Strings
~Dale Reubart – Arioso for Clarinet and String Orchestra
~Ronald Royer – Rhapsody for Clarinet, Percussion and String Orchestra

Romance for Clarinet, String Orchestra, Piano and Harp (Click to Play play)

The Romance for Clarinet, String Orchestra, Piano and Harp was rewritten in the fall of 2004 for clarinetist Jerome Summers based on a previously composed orchestral piece called Cinema, which had been written the previous winter.  Cinema was commissioned for a special 40th anniversary concert to celebrate the foundation of the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Dr. Glenn Mallory’s directorship. I had asked Glenn to describe his dream composition for this project.  After some thought, Glenn said he would love a piece featuring a beautiful romantic melody.

Today, one of the fields of musical composition that most highly values sweeping romantic melody is music for film.  Having worked in Los Angeles for the motion picture and television industry during the 1980’s, I decided to draw on this experience to compose Cinema.  Combining both American and European influences, Cinema and therefore Romance was written in two sections.  In this version called Romance, the opening section has a “Magical” atmosphere created by the strings, piano and harp against a more improvisatory and melodic clarinet part ending with a solo clarinet cadenza.  In the second section, the main romantic melody is first heard in the clarinet.  This section also includes a darker “film noir” melody featuring a solo violin and cello with the clarinet.  Romance ends as it began, quietly and calmly.

Romance was first performed by clarinetist Jerome Summers and the Toronto Sinfonietta conducted by Ronald Royer at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on January 23, 2005.

Rhapsody for Clarinet, String Orchestra and Percussion (Click to Play play)

The Rhapsody for Clarinet and String Orchestra was created to showcase various musical and technical features of a solo clarinet while being supported by a string orchestra and percussion.  I chose the form of a rhapsody because I felt it would give me the ability to show off the clarinet's flexibility while also allowing me to have some fun composing a piece with a variety of musical styles and moods. 

In the 19th-century, the rhapsody became a highly emotional and free musical form with large changes of moods connected to Hungarian or gypsy violin playing.  The height of this trend can be found in the 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies of Liszt (1846-85).  In the 20th-century, Bartok, Enescu and Ravel are some notable examples of European composers writing rhapsodies in this same trend.  As well, it is important to note that Debussy wrote the wonderful Premiere Rhapsodie for clarinet and piano for the Paris Conservatoire in 1910 to feature the player's technical ability for its end-of -year wind instrument examinations.  In my Rhapsody, I have tried to pay tribute to this excellent collection of rhapsodies while also adding some other musical influences, including some rhapsodies by the Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera.
In three continuous sections, the Rhapsody starts with a slow mysterious mood that introduces the main musical motives and melodies of the composition.  Next, the tempo increases while the music becomes more tender and flowing, ending with solo clarinet cadenzas.  The final section is a fast paced virtuoso rondo including Hungarian, Latin American and various other musical elements to complete the clarinetist's musical workout.  The Rhapsody was commissioned and first performed by clarinetist Jerome Summers accompanied by conductor Stephane LaForest and Orchestra London (Ontario, Canada) on November 2, 2005.