Sirène (1978), Edward Yadzinski

            Because of his background as a clarinetist, Edward Yadzinski (b. 1940) has an intimate knowledge of the distinctive things the clarinet can do with regard to dynamic and coloristic qualities. His programmatic work, Sirène, follows the tumultuous love story of a sirens from Greek mythology. Her destiny is to end the life of a sailor she loves. Throughout the work Yadzinski relies on the performer’s ability to create stark dynamic, coloristic, and articulation contrast to bring this imaginative work to life.


“Sirène – a beautiful maiden of the sea – is destined to lure a noble sea Captain to her dwelling place many fathoms below. However, because of his fearless desire for her, she spares him and renounces her deadly song and the right to claim him forever. She is therefore banished from the sacred choir of sirens and condemned to roam the endless depths alone. Overwhelmed by the Captain’s love and the anguish of her sacrifice, Sirène sings the ancient chant La Folia, and slowly falls into madness. Intoxicated with sorrow and longing, she consummates her desperation with Danse à la Folie (Dance of Madness). But far above, the pearly sails of her seaman’s vessel capture the brilliant beams of the sun. As if radiated through a prism, the light projects deeply into the waters, flooding the ocean floor with carmine, violet, green, and gold – the eternal colors of lovers lost at sea. In ecstasy under the shower of light, Sirène reclaims her sublime chant and conjures a great whirlpool below the ship. Thrilled by the sound of her mystic tone, the seaman vaults into the turgid sea to join his beloved. A great whirling chaos rises as a cyclone to the sun, bearing the Captain and Sirène into the heaves in exalted plumes of vapor, light, and sound.” - Edward Yadzinski


Concerto pour Clarinette by Eugène Bozza (1905 – 1991) demands virtuosic technique and thoughtful portrayal of many characters, making it both highly challenging and satisfying to perform. It was written in 1952 for Ulysse Delécluse (1907–1995), clarinet professor at the Paris Conservatory from 1948 – 1978. Bozza knew that the clarinet in the hands of Prof. Delécluse, was limitless, both technically and musically. The resulting work is one that, unfortunately, is not performed or as well-known as other French works of the time.


The Concerto reflects Bozza’s varied background as performer, composer, and conductor. He received the Premiere Prix in all three from the Paris Conservatory at different times in his life. Each movement presents a distinct character shaded with striking and constantly shifting colors. This creative use of character through style and color juxtaposition harkens back to his experience in ballet and opera. He conducted both the Ballet Russes and Opéra Comique. In 1950 he began teaching at the conservatory in Valenciennes, where he worked until 1975. The combination of both physical skill and stylistic variety available to Bozza himself no doubt contributed to his creativity and innovation as a composer evident in this work.


Each movement is full of long melodic lines with ample opportunity for filigree and expression; some more melismatic than others. This element is juxtaposed against long highly-technical passages throughout the first and third movements. The first movement embraces a decidedly jaunty style, with outbursts of passion and moments of placid reflection. The second embraces weight and significance in a way the first and third movements do not. It is as if we have been granted a window into a meaningful and intimate moment of reflection between two people, perhaps two lovers sitting on a park bench at twilight, the moonlight spilling down on them highlighting the beauty of such a simple and pure moment. The movement concludes with a soft but sweet whisper. After a serious and melodic second movement, the third feels as though doesn’t belong to the first two. Full of wild flourishes, it embraces mechanical rhythmic gestures and extremes of range and articulation. Style here is a parody of the seriousness of the second movement, almost cartoon-like in its nature and execution.

“Jacques Ibert was born in Paris in 1890. He began piano lessons with his mother at age four. From 1911 to 1914 Ibert studied composition and counterpoint alongside fellow students Darius Milhaud and Arthur Honegger at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1919 he won the Prix de Rome for his cantata Le poète et la fée (The Poet and the Fairy). In 1937 Ibert worked to Rome as Director of the Académie de France. With the exception of the World War II years, he held this position until 1960. He was also briefly administrator of the Réunion des Théâtres Lyriques Nationaux from 1955 to 56). He died in Paris in 1962.


Ibert was among the most eclectic of 20th-century composers and resisted associating himself with any one musical style, stating, ‘All [compositional] systems are valid, provided that one derives music from them.’ His works are characterized by expert craftsmanship, clever counterpoint, and a vivid use of tone color. Many of Ibert’s well-known works feature brilliant and colorful writing for wind instruments, including the Divertissement for Orchestra (1930), his concertos for flute (1934) and saxophone (1935), and Trois Pièces Brèves for woodwind quintet (1930). A number of his chamber works utilize the timbres of slightly less standard instruments such as saxophone, harpsichord, guitar, or harp.   


Cinq Pièces en Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon was composed in 1935. The trio consists of five very brief movements of alternating tempi. True to Ibert’s eclectic aesthetic, he combines impressionist and neo-classical elements in these five miniatures. The work opens with a sprightly Allegro vivo march interwoven with well-wrought counterpoint. A more reflective and pastoral Andantino follows for contrast. The third movement is a brisk minuet with thoroughly modern harmony marked Allegro assai. A thoughtful, somewhat academic Andante leads to a good-humored (and not very martial sounding) finale marked Allegro quasi marziale.”

(Graham House, Nebraska Chamber Players)

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© 2022 by Vanessa Davis, Clarinetist & Instructor

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