Per Nørgård - Spell (1973)
Performed by Emily Ji (clarinet), Wesley Hornpetrie (cello), and Hsin-Yi Huang (piano) June 21, 2021, Stamps Auditorium (U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance) Recording and editing done by Nightingale Media Spell Per Nørgård B: 13 July 1932; Gentofte, Denmark Composed: 1973 Instrumentation: clarinet, cello, piano Per Nørgård composed “Spell” for the American Montagnana Trio in 1973. The title refers to both “spelling” with notes and the idea of enchantment. Nørgård’s program note from 1981 is as follows: “Spell”, my second clarinet trio, was composed in 1973. There is a lapse of about twenty years between the two works and much which was subconscious in me when I composed op. 15, had in the meantime found expression and had moreover been formulated in rational note and rhythm constellations of an abstract kind (“the infinite series” from ar. 1960, the rhythmic layers of “the golden section” from 1972, etc.). As indicated by the title the work aims at “casting a spell” by “spelling”, which – expressed in notes – means that small motifs of few notes gradually change in the course of numerous reappearances. When three instruments in this way separately “spell” their way through one motif after another, it is evident that numerous kinds of harmonies and melodies will develop. In that way one state after another appears, according to the single stages of the “spelling”: secretive, lyrical, exhilarated, violent, melancholy, festive, etc. – like cloud formations forming pictures and breaking up again: the forms are innumerable and partly dependent on the listener’s creative imagination. Nevertheless the course of the work can be described in broad outline – like a landscape from an aeroplane: the murmuring double tempo of the introduction, a virtuoso pianolike part which gradually “breaks up” and reveals a hectic conflict, released in a “grand” climax; this lasts, however, only for a short while and then discloses a sensitive inside until an almost chaotic ‘furioso’ brings the movement – and the work – to a close. At last, however, there is yet another ending where the drip of notes from the beginning reappears, but on a new basis of sound and emotion: the circle proves to be a spiral. Nørgård provides a list of observations for the performers in the beginning of the score, including an explanation of the non-traditional system of notation, clarification of brackets indicating independent tempi for each individual performer, and indication that the number of modified repetitions is left to the performer’s discretion. Unlike other traditionally composed music, “Spell” is not written in measures in the traditional sense. The piece is composed of cells denoted by brackets and longer unbarred sections. These brackets come in and out of sync between the other instruments, lining up only at key points in the piece which are specified by a vertical dotted line. The cells for the clarinet and cello often line up and change together. Nørgård also uses notehead size to indicate changes in dynamic—larger noteheads meaning louder notes and vice versa. He also uses arrows to notate acceleration and deceleration of motifs throughout the piece. While other pieces usually have the ensemble change tempo together, “Spell” features moments each musician slowing down at different rates and times. At one point in the piece the three instruments rallentando independently - starting at different times and slowing down at different rates to create intentional asynchrony. The piece also begins with piano at a tempo independent of the clarinet and cello. The most interesting technique, however, may be the fact that the number of repetitions of each bracketed cell is left up to the musicians, thus requiring a combination of planning and also spontaneity. This piece demands great familiarity with every trio member’s parts and solid communication between players. As a result, Nørgård writes, “[t]he work is thus very much a chamber music ‘game’ for the players and demands a high degree of co-ordination between them.” Although unconventional, “Spell” provides an extremely fresh and unique opportunity for both the performers and listeners. https://www.emilyjiclarinet.com/ The video series "Ruders and Nørgård: A look within the Danish repertoire" was supported in part through the School of Music, Theatre & Dance Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund as well as the Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant.
Poul Ruders - Tattoo for One (1984)
Performed by Emily Ji July 7, 2021, Britton Recital Hall (U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance) Recording and editing done by Nightingale Media Tattoo for One Poul Ruders B: 27 March 1949; Ringsted, Denmark Composed: 1984 Instrumentation: clarinet Poul Ruders (b. 1949) is a Grammy nominated Danish composer who is largely known for his operas and orchestral works. Ruders studied orchestration with Karl Aage Rasmussen and has created a large body of music consisting not only of operas and orchestral works but also many chamber, vocal, and solo works in a variety of styles. His operas have been staged in Copenhagen, New York City, London, Toronto, Munich, Boston, and San Francisco, and his orchestral music has been commissioned and performed by orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Tattoo for One is published with the following preface written by Bertel Krarup: TATTOO FOR ONE (1984) is a virtuoso tour de force and as such can be looked upon as a kind of preparatory work to the later CLARINET CONCERTO (1985). TATTOO FOR ONE is characterized by Ruders’ inexhaustible instrumental fantasy, together with the associations arising from the notation of a tattoo: an outdoor military parade at dusk. Rhythmic energy, and a finely edged treatment of motifs (including fragments of fanfare-like character) crowd in on the listener. TATTOO FOR ONE was later in 1984 followed by a sister work, TATTOO FOR THREE, for clarinet, cello and piano. Ruders created another sister work in 2017, Tattoo for Four. In his own words, “TATTOO FOR FOUR is in reality the same piece as TATTOO FOR THREE from 1984, but with a fourth voice - for violin - added.” The “tattoo” in the title can be generally understood as a rapid rhythmic tapping. Several tattoo motifs can be heard throughout the piece, marked by the percussive repetition of the same pitch tapping out a specific rhythmic fragment. The term comes from the early 17th-century Dutch phrase doe den tap toe (“turn off the tap”), a signal sounded by drummers during the Thirty Years’ War in the Low Countries to instruct innkeeps near military garrisons to stop serving beer and for soldiers to return to the barracks. This tattoo is unrelated to the Tahitian origins of an ink tattoo. The military reference in the title of this work points to the strict rhythmic rigidity the performer must uphold. Study and performance of this work requires a great deal of technical and mental stamina as a result of the inexhaustible and unrelenting nature of the music. Most of the piece is written without a time signature, so the difficulty lies in maintaining a consistent eighth note pulse while shifting between the triple and duple groupings, all while leaping across the range of the instrument. The piece opens with a quiet tattoo approaching and eventually explodes into an exciting, pressing fanfare. The tattoo is occasionally interrupted by subito pp moments, but quickly marches on after each disruption. Soon after, the performer bursts into long, trumpet-like fermata notes embellished with semitones, eventually culminating into the clarinetist spinning around while playing bell up, creating a sort of Doppler effect. We are then given a brief reprieve from the unrelenting tattoo with a short pp “beep-beep computer game” section. After the return to the initial tattoo, Ruders gives the marking “extremely fast and wild.” The piece picks up in both register and speed as the performer spins again with her bell up before triumphantly ending on one of the highest notes on the clarinet. https://www.emilyjiclarinet.com/ The video series "Ruders and Nørgård: A look within the Danish repertoire" was supported in part through the School of Music, Theatre & Dance Eileen Weiser EXCEL Fund as well as the Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant.