A place toward other places

CD Cover

Richard Hawkins, clarinet
The Oberlin Comtemporary Music Ensemble
Timothy Weiss, conductor
Release: January 2013

This recording was made in Clonick Recording Studio at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music between 2010 and 2012. All of the works on this recording are licensed and reproduced with permission of the composers and publishers. © 2012 Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Timothy Weiss

Lisa Goddard C
Eliot Heaton, Violin I B
Holly Jenkins,
  Concertmaster C; Violin I A<
Nate Lesser, Violin II A
Lauren Manning C
Sarah Martin, Violin II B
Augusta McKay Lodge,
  Principal 2nd Violin C
Marina Kifferstein C
Brendan Shea C
Jing Qiao C

DJ Cheek C A
Lianna Dugan, Principal C
Carrie Frey B
Jane Mitchell C
Jesse Yukimura C

Mary Auner, Principal C
David Ellis C
Madeleine Kabat A
Eric Tinkerhess C B
Yin Xiong C

Adam Bernstein C
Will Robbins B; Principal C

Annie Gordon B
Sarah Pyle C

Xiaodi Liu C
Megan Kyle C
Pablo Moreno B

English Horn
Megan Kyle C

Eric Anderson B

Ryan Wilkins C
Carl Gardner B

Matthew Berliner C
William Eisenberg B

Jacob Flaschen C B

Zachary Guiles C B

Derek Dube C

Miles Fellenberg C
Derek Zinky B

Shelly Du C
Rebekah Efthimiou B

Neil Ruby C
Ryan Packard C
John Langford C
Christian Smith B
Sean Dowgray B

Superscripts denote personnel on each work: Carter C, Broening B, Albright A, Helgeson H

Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music: David H. Stull
Audio Engineers: Paul Eachus, Ryan Miller
Producers: Paul Eachus, Timothy Weiss, and Richard Hawkins
Editorial Director: Cathleen Partlow Strauss
Cover and booklet cover artwork: John Pearson, Oberlin College, Professor of Art
Photography: John Seyfried
Design: Kelemen Graphic Design

Disk 1

Elliott Carter: Clarinet Concerto
Co-Producers: Paul Eachus, Timothy Weiss, Richard Hawkins
Engineer: Paul Eachus
Editing: Paul Eachus
Mastering: Paul Eachus
Length: 20:04
Benjamin Broening: Clarinet Concerto
Premiere Recording
I. Ascenders
II. Penumbral Cantilena
III. Pulse Arc
Co-Producers: Paul Eachus, Benjamin Broening, Timothy Weiss, Richard Hawkins
Engineer: Ryan Miller
Editing: Ryan Miller
Mastering: Paul Eachus
Length: 26:10

Disk 2

William Albright: Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet
Movement I: The Wedge of Sighs
Movement II: Theme, Adagio
Variation 1: Danza rustica, pesante (like an out-of-control carnival ride)
Variation 2: Delirious (Pizzicato polka on an idea of Brahms)
Variation 3: Largo (Marcia funebre)
Variation 4: Andante (Night Music I)
Variation 5: Duetto 1 molto rapido
Variation 6: Lullabye (Homage to Brahms)
Variation 7: Vivo (Homage to Mozart)
Variation 8/9: Duetto 2 (Zephyr-mobile)/
Lontano (Night Music II)
Variation 10: Canzona lamentosa
Variation 11: Adagio (Night Music III)
Variation 12: Klezmer Fantasy
Co-Producers: Paul Eachus, Timothy Weiss, Richard Hawkins
Engineer: Paul Eachus
Editing: Ryan Miller
Mastering: Paul Eachus
Length: 31:35
Aaron Helgeson: A place toward other places for solo clarinet
Premiere Recording
Co-Producers: Paul Eachus, Aaron Helgeson, Timothy Weiss, Richard Hawkins
Engineer: Paul Eachus
Editing: Paul Eachus
Mastering: Paul Eachus
Length: 12:56


ABOUT A place toward other places
The possibilities of the clarinet seem inexhaustible. The enormous range of the instrument includes the gorgeous low register (known as the chalumeau) and, for an accomplished player, the sky is the limit at the top (well, almost). Adept at playing lyrical melodies, but also capable of surprising dramatic effects, the instrument sees its contemporary repertoire growing rapidly. In this recording, Richard Hawkins brings together four American works written during the last quarter of a century, by four generations of composers born between 1908 and 1982.

Weiss explains the genesis of the CD project:  “Richard and I chose the repertory together. We started with the idea of recording Elliott Carter's Clarinet Concerto. In crafting the architecture of the disc as a whole, we liked the idea of each piece involving a successively smaller ensemble. So, the disc moves from concertos with chamber orchestra, through a chamber music ensemble, to a solo clarinet work. We also wanted to put forth some lesser-known composers. The works by Broening and Helgeson were written for Richard and the ensemble.”

“The finished product is a stunning collection of vastly different musical styles and personalities,” Weiss adds.

Hawkins says he is especially “proud to showcase Oberlin's new recording studio and highlight the professional-level talents of the conservatory students."

The Contemporary Music Ensemble debut recording on the Oberlin Music label was released at the DiMenna Center concert in New York City during the Oberlin in NYC tour on Friday, January 18, 2013.

Elliott Carter (1908-2012)
Clarinet Concerto (1996)

1. Scherzando
2. Deciso
3. Tranquillo
4. Presto
5. Largo
6. Giocoso
7. Agitato
(movements performed without break)

Elliott Carter’s Clarinet Concerto was written for the 20th anniversary of the Ensemble
InterContemporain in Paris and its solo clarinetist Alain Damiens. Those forces gave the world premiere at the Cité de la Musique in Paris on January 10, 1997, under the direction of Pierre Boulez. The soloist gets very little time to rest in this 18-minute work. He interacts constantly, and in manifold ways, with the various members of the performing ensemble; during the seven interconnected movements, he wanders from one section of the orchestra to another to play “chamber music” with different colleagues in turn. Thus, the clarinet is heard first in conjunction with harp, piano, and mallet percussion, then with the other percussion; followed by successive episodes with the brass, the woodwind, the strings, and a larger grouping of instruments. In the concluding section, the entire orchestra finally becomes the soloist’s partner.

During his long career, Carter thought deeply about non-conventional approaches to rhythm. Like many of the composer’s later works, the Clarinet Concerto avoids “difficult” time signatures and is notated in 4/4 or 3/4 throughout, yet the subdivisions are extremely complex, resulting in what comes across as a highly irregular placement of the notes in time; despite the great precision of the notation, this creates the impression of freedom. In addition, Carter makes ample use of the “metric modulations” for which he was famous: these are meter changes in which, say, a triplet eighth note in the old meter becomes a regular eighth note in the new, producing a seamless and organic change in tempo. The rhythmic inspiration behind the piece, further emphasized by the important role of the large percussion battery, gives the equally complex, free atonal handling of pitch an extraordinary sense of vitality. Needless to say, the clarinet part is breathtakingly virtuosic, with fast runs and wide leaps galore, though multi-phonics and other extended techniques are avoided. One can see how the seven brief movements relate to traditional allegro, adagio, scherzo and finale characters; yet the form of the piece is completely original and unique.
– Notes by Peter Laki

Benjamin Broening (1967-)
Clarinet Concerto (1996, rev. 2011)
Premiere Recording
I. Ascenders
II. Penumbral Cantilena
III. Pulse Arc

Clarinet Concerto is a substantial revision and expansion of a concerto I wrote for Richard Hawkins in 1996. The original concerto was about 14 minutes, scored for a small ensemble of winds, brass, and timpani in two movements. The present version (completed in 2011) is scored for a larger and more colorful ensemble; is about ten minutes longer than the original; includes a completely new middle movement; and significantly reworks the soloist’s material in the last movement.

The first movement traces a long series of undulating ascents in both the clarinet and the ensemble, and moves from a quiet opening in the low register to a clangorous finale. The inexorable motion upwards is punctuated by freer, cadenza-like passages for the solo clarinet. The second movement is a deceptively simple song, albeit with a slightly dark undertone. Time is articulated by an ever-present pulse of piano and percussion that gradually slows over the course of the movement.

The final movement traces a number of arcs (of tempo, register, and rhythmic intensity) over the course of its ten minutes. Marked by virtuoso passage work for the clarinet in the first half and virtuosity of a different kind in the second (quiet lines in the highest register), the movement builds to a climax before giving way to a slow, expressive, and perhaps slightly melancholic ending.

Benjamin Broening’s music couples his interest in the expressive power of sound with a sense of line derived from his background as a singer. Active as a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music, Broening has written pieces for soloists and ensembles such Camilla Hoitenga, Zeitgeist, eighth blackbird, Tim McAllister, the Charlotte Symphony, the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, the Band and Orchestral Division of Yamaha Corporation of America, the Arts Now Series at North Carolina State University, Ensemble U, duo runedako, and the Connecticut Choral Society, among many others. In the past few years his music has been performed across the United States and in 18 other countries. A recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, Broening has also received recognition and awards from the Jerome Composers Commissioning Program, American Composers Forum, Virginia Commission for the Arts, ACS/Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the Presser Music Foundation.

Recombinant Nocturnes, Broening’s 2011 Innova CD of piano music performed by duo runedako has been called a “gorgeous disc of music” and “thoughtful, eloquent, and disarmingly direct” by New Music Box, “deep, troubling” by François Couture and “Lovely, delicate, calming” by Los Angeles’ KFJC. Trembling Air, a disc of Broening’s solo and chamber music was recorded by eighth blackbird. Released in September 2012, by Bridge Records it has been described as “haunting” and has been praised for it’s “surprising enchantment” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Other recordings have been released by Ensemble U in Estonia and on the Centaur, everglade, Equilibrium, MIT Press, and SEAMUS record labels. Broening is founder and artistic director of Third Practice, an annual festival of electroacoustic music at the University of Richmond, where he is Associate Professor of Music. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Cambridge University, Yale University, and Wesleyan University.
– Notes by Benjamin Broening

William Albright (1944-1998)
Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet

Movement I: The Wedge of Sighs
Movement II: Theme, Adagio
Variation 1: Danza rustica, pesante (like an out-of-control carnival ride)
Variation 2: Delirious (Pizzicato polka on an idea of Brahms)
Variation 3: Largo (Marcia funebre)
Variation 4: Andante (Night Music I)
Variation 5: Duetto 1 molto rapido
Variation 6: Lullabye (Homage to Brahms)
Variation 7: Vivo (Homage to Mozart)
Variation 8/9: Duetto 2 (Zephyr-mobile)/Lontano (Night Music II)
Variation 10: Canzona lamentosa
Variation 11: Adagio (Night Music III)
Variation 12: Klezmer Fantasy

If we hear the words “clarinet quintet,” we immediately think of Mozart and Brahms. Yet there are several important 20th-century works for that instrumental combination, and it is no exaggeration to say that the present work offers a whole new take on the time-honored genre. William Albright was a charismatic composer, organist, teacher, and ragtime enthusiast (Benjamin Broening was one of his students at the University of Michigan). His premature death in 1998 was mourned by the entire musical community.

Albright’s Clarinet Quintet achieves its intense lyricism through wholly modern means. This is music built of a sequence of elemental gestures, each of which is devised and placed with the utmost care for detail; the isolated pieces of the mosaic are joined together to form a most compelling musical form. Flourishes played in free rhythm and tiny fragments from imaginary dance tunes (tango, ragtime) swirl around in the musical space; individual motifs are given fanciful markings that, at times, recall Erik Satie’s whimsical performance directions: “wormy,” “vertiginoso,” or “transcendent” are just a few of the unusual words written into the score.

The first of the two movements is a dreamy fantasy whose emotional range reaches from the grotesque to the ecstatic. This is followed by a theme and variations (a form found in the last movements of both the Mozart and the Brahms clarinet quintets). Its simple theme has the shape of a funnel with ever widening intervals; twelve variations follow, widely differing in tempo, character, and instrumentation. A “rustic dance” (which is supposed to evoke “an out-of-control carnival ride”) is followed by a “delirious pizzicato polka” for strings alone, containing a discreet nod to Brahms. The third variation is a funeral march; the fourth, a night music in quarter tones for the three upper strings; the fifth, a hushed duo between the clarinet and the first violin. The sixth variation, which again involves the entire quintet, is a lullaby that once more alludes to Brahms, but soon the music will begin to “rock the cradle.” The seventh variation pays homage to Mozart by quoting a characteristic viola figure from the minor-mode variation in K. 581. The eighth and ninth variations, played simultaneously, contrast an uncoordinated, perpetual-motion duet between the viola and the cello (“Zephyr-mobile”), with a “sleepy” night music for clarinet and two violins. An intense “Canzona lamentosa” and another eerie night music lead into the concluding romp, a humorous “klezmer fantasy” bursting with energy and filled with delicious musical jokes. After an over-the-top clarinet cadenza, the music surprisingly returns to the “transcendent and hushed” closing material of the first movement, so that the second movement of the quintet ends in a way extremely similar to the first.
–Notes by Peter Laki

Aaron Helgeson (1982-)
A place toward other places for solo clarinet (2012)
Premiere Recording

Richard Hawkins and I met in the summer of 2001 at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, though it was not until several years after that I first heard him perform during a concert of chamber music at Oberlin. Already familiar with his work as a mouthpiece crafter, I was immediately struck by his technical virtuosity, and also his ability to interpret music in such a way as to fully inhabit many different sound worlds, each one unique. A place toward other places, written a decade later, attempts to capture those qualities particular to Hawkins as a musician: his curiosity and expertise with the inner workings of his instrument; his calm and steady personality, and above all, his simultaneous musical lyricism and control. In this way, the piece acts as a kind of soliloquy, a personal aside from a clarinetist who in other contexts is so expert at becoming a kind of musical chameleon.

The “place” and “other places” of the title may equally refer to the work’s echos of modality (G Phrygian in the opening, A-flat Mixolydian at the close); the chords and trills emanating from the complex interior of the clarinet; or the private sonic landscapes these sounds give rise to. Like tonal harmonies, each sound – the pair of alternating chords of the piece’s initial moments; the high trills and harmonics; the low tremolos – has a particular function. Some have the energy or dynamic shape to initiate a phrase, while some provide closure. Some interrupt, some prolong, and some allow movement to other harmonic and gestural constellations. At the same time, these sounds connect to our everyday aural experience: a train horn off in the distance; a bird call in a city park; an undulating machine; a religious ritual. Our recognition of one allows us to indulge in the discovery of another, yielding a delicate and fragile dance between the familiar and the uncharted.

Born in 1982 near the crossing of two Oregon river valleys, Aaron Helgeson began composing at the age of 14. Influenced early in his career by contact with Salvatore Sciarrino and Helmut Lachenmann, Helgeson’s music explores the poetic boundaries of musical perception and draws on the diverse fields of phenomenology, acoustics, and cognitive science. Initially studying at the American Music Institute and Interlochen Center for the Arts, he holds a bachelor’s degree in composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and a PhD from UC San Diego where he studied with Chaya Czernowin and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Roger Reynolds.

Helgeson’s work has been championed by such acclaimed musicians as Grammy Award winning soprano Susan Narucki, the Arditti String Quartet, Yarn/Wire, Palimpsest, and French chorus Les Cris de Paris. Helgeson’s music is performed regularly all over the world, with recent and upcoming festival appearances at IRCAM’s ManiFeste 2012, the Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, New York’s MOSA chamber music series, and World New Music Days in Vienna. In 2005, he was honored by theater producer Hal Prince with the Saul Chaplin Award for his chamber opera The Crane Wife, an original adaptation of the popular Japanese folk tale of the same name. He has received additional prizes, grants, and accolades from numerous organizations such as ASCAP, the Fulbright Institute, and the American Composers Forum. Also a dedicated teacher, Helgeson returned to the Oberlin Conservatory in 2010 as Visiting Assistant Professor of Composition. He currently resides in California.
– Notes by Aaron Helgeson

About the Artists

Richard Hawkins
Clarinetist Richard Hawkins made his solo debut at the Kennedy Center with Mstislav Rostropovich and the National Symphony Orchestra in 1992. He has since given more than 50 performances of featured clarinet works with orchestra. His first teaching position at the Interlochen Arts Academy in 1993 set a new career direction, a dedication to educating the world’s finest young clarinetists. He has simultaneously led an active performing career, as well as pursued his passion for instrument design.

Hawkins performed for five seasons as principal clarinet of the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra and served as artist faculty at the Hot Springs Music Festival each June from 1997-2007. His work in the arenas of contemporary, chamber and orchestral music have included performances with the Cleveland Orchestra, Tucson Winter Music Festival, as well as recitals and master classes throughout the United States and Europe. After several years at Interlochen, and a brief tenure at DePaul University, Hawkins joined the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2001. His former students now hold prestigious positions in orchestras and teaching institutions worldwide.

Hawkins designed instruments for the G. Leblanc Corporation and developed his own line of clarinet mouthpieces that have become some of the most widely favored products in the industry. He is now an artist and representative for Légère Reeds LTD. and Backun Musical Services. Hawkins proudly performs on the Backun MOBA clarinet made of cocobolo with an R Model Richard Hawkins mouthpiece and Legere Signature reed.

As an integral part of this recording project, Hawkins wanted to showcase the remarkable intelligence, passion, and performance level of the Oberlin Conservatory students, and acknowledges them for their superior work on these performances. Shortly before the recording of the Broening Clarinet Concerto, the Oberlin community suffered the tragic loss of one of Mr. Hawkins’ talented clarinet students. He would like to dedicate the Broening Clarinet Concerto in honor of Jung Choi, his family, and close friends.

Timothy Weiss
Conductor Timothy Weiss has gained critical acclaim for his performances and adventurous programming throughout the United States and abroad. Since 2005, he has served as music director of the Newark Granville Symphony Orchestra, a professional ensemble in the Columbus, Ohio, area. He has also remained active as a guest conductor with the BBC Scottish Symphony in Glasgow, Scotland; the Britten Sinfonia in London; the Melbourne Symphony in Australia; ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble); and the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings.

Weiss is committed to exploring the connections within and between pieces in his performances and searching for similarities of voice between different composers from seemingly different genres, periods, and backgrounds. Accordingly, his programs often present rare and revealing juxtapositions, offering a broad range of works from the minimalists to the maximalists, from the old to the new, and from the mainstream to the unheard of. His repertoire in contemporary music is vast and fearless, including masterworks, very recent compositions, and an impressive number of premieres and commissions. Recently, he was the recipient of the Adventurous Programming Award from the American Symphony Orchestra League.

In his 20 years as music director of the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, he has brought the group to a level of artistry and virtuosity in performance that rivals the finest new music groups. After a concert with the ensemble in Carnegie Hall, Anthony Aibel wrote in a review, “under the direction of Timothy Weiss [the ensemble] presented unbelievably polished, superb performances—impeccable performances—of extremely challenging recent music .... Their level of preparation eclipses the highest standard .... Each work on the program had something vital to say, something profound, and [Weiss] was able to communicate the music’s message with vitality and insight, despite its extreme difficulty and somewhat foreign language. Weiss conducted with economy of gesture—never over conducting, never distracting from the music ... the performance ... cohered like one instrument with perfection thanks to the expert preparation by Timothy Weiss.”

As a committed educator, Weiss is professor of conducting and chair of the Division of Conducting and Ensembles at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he helped create and mentored the ensembles eighth blackbird and ICE. He holds degrees from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan.

Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble
Winner of an award for adventurous programming by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers and the American Symphony Orchestra League in 2002, Oberlin Conservatory of Music’s Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME) stands foremost among new music ensembles in higher education in the United States. Deemed by the New York Times as “a hotbed of contemporary-classical players” the Oberlin Conservatory of Music cultivates innovation in its students, and an interest in the continuation of music as an art form. In its six annual full-concert cycles, CME performs music of all contemporary styles and genres: from minimalism to serialism, to electronic, cross genre, mixed media, and beyond.

CME has worked with many prominent composers from a variety of backgrounds, including George Crumb, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Helmut Lachenmann, David Lang, Joan Tower, Frederic Rzewski, and has premiered many of their works. CME also regularly premieres works by prominent Oberlin faculty, student, and alumni composers. Oberlin Conservatory attracts some of the most well regarded contemporary music icons to perform as soloists with CME, including Jennifer Koh ’97, Claire Chase ’00, David Bowlin ’00, Tony Arnold ’90, Marilyn Nonken, Stephen Drury, Steven Schick, and Ursula Oppens. Distinguished students regularly receive opportunities to perform as soloists with the ensemble as well, a luxury that is seldom afforded at other institutions.

Oberlin has long been an undergraduate haven for nationally acclaimed composers, chamber musicians, and ensembles. It has produced scores of powerhouse new music performers and ensembles that began their careers as members of CME, including the two-time Grammy award-winning sextet eighth blackbird and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), among others.

In addition to its concerts at Oberlin, CME regularly tours the country. In recent years, the group has performed at the Winter Garden, Miller Theatre, Merkin Concert Hall, Harvard University, Benaroya Hall, Palace of Fine Arts, and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, as well as in numerous partner concerts with the Cleveland Museum of Art. CME also has been featured on a number of commercial recordings, including John Luther Adams’ In the White Silence (New World Records), Lewis Nielson’s Écritures: St. Francis Preaches to the Birds (Centaur Records), and the Oberlin Music record label.