Clarinet music by female composers: Schott music

This review was published on: July 28th 2020

Various, ed Pfeiffer and Heller
Clarinet and piano

This collection of 18 pieces from 14 composers includes music from female composers spanning more than two centuries. Most of the pieces are individual movements from larger works. The earliest composer here, Caroline von Schleicher-Krähmer (1794-1850), was a ‘travelling virtuoso clarinettist’ according to the notes. The Larghetto from her Sonatine is reminiscent of the Baermann Adagio. Also from the Romantic era is Air Slave by Clémence de Grandval and sonata movements from Alice Mary Smith and Johanna Senfter. There are also miniatures from composers spanning the early 20th century including Germaine Tailleferre, Elisabeth Lutyens, Priaulx Rainer, Grazyna Bacewicz and Krystyna Moszumańska-Nazar.

While the majority of the works are broadly tonal, the influences are varied and exciting to explore. Three living composers are included. Image de Norvège by Ida Gotkovsky is an energetic picture with a brief cadenza. Of the two German composers, Barbara Heller provides two contrasting pieces: the spritely Herbstmusik (Autumn Music) and the shorter, enigmatic Mariendsistel (Thistle) both show an affection for the natural world. Also influenced by nature, Tina Ternes’ Flug der Scwalben (Flight of the Swallows) from Three Pieces for Clarinet (2020) depicts a swallow swooshing overhead. Augmented intervals hint at the journey over northern Africa. Francine Aubin’s Pièce en forme de Jazz is a smokey number from her Deux Pieces, although note that there may be some missing accidentals in this.

Aside from Lutyens Five Little Pieces and Tailleferre’s Arabesque, all of these pieces were new to me, and, even though I was aware that these were all female composers, the collection is still a refreshing set of interesting, playable and enjoyable works, of Grade 6 to 8 standard and beyond. Pieces for both B flat and A clarinet are included. Highly recommended.

Stephanie Reeve

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