Cambria Master Recordings
Music for Clarinet and Strings, World Premiere Recordings
“Two compositions, Romance for Clarinet and Strings, and Rhapsody for Clarinet, Percussion and Strings, come from the pen of Ronald Royer. These masterful and witty pieces live up to Royer’s reputation for music that is both entertaining and imaginative.”
Showtimemagazine.ca, Stanley Fefferman
This collection of new compositions for clarinet and strings represents an idea that began at the turn of the Millennium in 2000. At that time, I undertook to commission works which would be consonant with the uniquely expressive yet dynamic voice of the clarinet.
The four commissioned composers have each established a distinguished body of music which demonstrates their exceptional lyrical gifts, as well as their respect for music of established compositional techniques. Each of the composers responded to my wish to have a lyrical but dramatically rhapsodic work created especially for this recording project. Some of the commissioning criteria embrace the same traditions as many of the rhapsodic music of earlier masters such as Debussy, Brahms, Bliss, Liszt, Ginastera and Gershwin.
What has emerged has more than fulfilled my expectations, and we now have a new collection of truly brilliant works to add to the already-rich clarinet repertoire. It is my wish that performers and audiences enjoy these beautiful examples of the finest of today’s creative artists, and explore other music from their extensive output. – Jerome Summers
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.
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.
Notes From the Recording Sessions
I was very pleased when Jerry Summers asked me to join the sessions as a project liaison. Having been a part of many recordings as both a professional cellist and a composer, I always enjoy the excitement of preserving a musical performance. Arriving at the Ottawa church where the recordings sessions would take place, I was struck by the enthusiasm, passion and dedication of all the people working on this project. There had been some last minute challenges to test the organizing team. Jerry’s clarinet was accidentally damaged during the previous day’s rehearsal, so emergency repairs by the local clarinet expert were quickly arranged. One of the viola players was forced by an emergency to withdraw from the recording sessions requiring a last minute substitution. The piano player came down with a nasty flu but decided she would still try to play. Then on the first day of recording, a very noisy hydro truck was deployed just outside the church, but the workers graciously responded to our plea for quiet! These were only a few of the situations in play leading up to and starting the sessions.
Simon Streatfield, the conductor and a veteran of many recordings, led the musicians with a cheerful demeanor and expertise that was an inspiration. Keith Horner, the recording producer with years of experience at the CBC, kept the recording process on track giving directions and feedback with his rich and elegant voice. A wonderful example of the players’ commitment to this project came from the principal percussionist, Andre Morin. Before the sessions began, he realized the part scored for a low tom-tom in my Rhapsody presented recording challenges so he built a special drum just for this recording. He didn’t ask for any additional money for all his work and he was right, this new drum did record beautifully. All the players were amazing and illness didn’t stop the pianist from delivering an excellent performance. Our clarinet soloist played all day with amazing musicality and verve, never showing signs of fatigue.
When the sessions were finished, the orchestra gave Jerry a round of enthusiastic applause, congratulating him for his outstanding playing and for organizing this very special Canadian project. As a composer and a musician, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed being a part of these sessions.
Jerome Summers-Clarinet, Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, Simon Streatfeild- Conductor
1-2. Ronald Royer – Romance for Clarinet, String Orchestra, Piano and Harp (9:10)
3-6. Oliver Whitehead – Pissarro Landscapes for Clarinet, Piano and Strings (21:28)
7-10. Michael Conway Baker – Concerto for Clarinet, Piano, Percussion and Strings (16:21)
11-12. Dale Reubart – Arioso for Clarinet and String Orchestra (11:25)
13-14. Ronald Royer – Rhapsody for Clarinet, Percussion and String Orchestra (10:52)