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Inspiration, Joy, and Desolation

The program on this album is all about contrasts: the duality of light and darkness, joy and despair, isolation and inclusion. Making a recording provides a wonderful opportunity to dive deep into our art and explore how we make music together. Each of us has taken the opportunity to share our thoughts on the music and the recording process. 

Edwin on Wye…

Recording at Wyastone is a very special experience. Far from the noisy streets of London, nestled along the River Wye, which comprises part of the border between England and Wales, among the rolling hills of rapeseed flowers and bleating sheep, a retired concert hall makes for an idyllic spot to record beautiful music. We stay at the Old Court Hotel, a wonderful old Tudor structure that dates from the late 16th century. Imagine big wooden beams, creaky floors angled by centuries, and a grand court room adorned with family crests and crossed spears where we enjoy a breakfast of back bacon, smoked fish, and poached eggs fresh from the countryside. This is the setting I awake to on each day of the recording session. The morning rays slide past my curtains as I lie in the quiet comfort of my room, named for St. Dubricius, and I cannot help but call to mind the beautiful strains of Gerald Finzi’s Carol. The finale of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet puts me in the mood for a pint at the Old Court Pub. Somehow the music on our album is just the perfect soundtrack for our all-too-brief visit to England.

Ross on recording…

Recording in a studio presents a whole separate set of challenges compared to performing live on stage, but it also offers unique opportunities not available in the concert hall. One of the advantages of a studio recording is that you can experiment with microphone placement, altering the listener’s relationship to the sound and its location in space. For certain passages in John Corigliano’s Soliloquy, we had fun experimenting not only with microphone placement, but also musician placement! In order to express the isolation and loneliness of the first violin and clarinet lines, Michelle tried playing from her chair and standing around the room in different locations, each take offering a slightly different sense of distance. I won’t tell you which take made the final cut, though. After all, a musician never reveals their secrets…

Michelle on creating a sound world…

It was an absolute joy to make this recording with Alex Fiterstein, a wonderful artist and a warm person. I feel that Alex inspires me and the group to push our craftsmanship even further. Exploring the sound world we create together was an especially delightful experience. From the beginning I felt that combining the sounds of clarinet and string quartet was extremely colorful and unique. Of course, the great master Mozart wrote his much loved Clarinet Quintet to highlight the beautiful and melodious qualities of the clarinet, combining it with flexibility and variety of string colors. When it comes to Carolina Heredia’s Ius in Bello (Law of War), from the very beginning she uses modern techniques of clarinet playing with a much wider range of dynamics and expressions, and the strings add a sense of anxiety and turmoil with passages of tremolo, snapped pizzicato, and ponticello (playing on the bridge). It’s as if you’re watching a hot metal plate glow, radiating heat and burning the particles in the air around it.

Serafim on the emotional power of the music….

While performing Carolina Heredia’s Ius In Bello, I’m struck by its soulfulness and visceral power, transcending any awareness of particular instrumentation, drawing me in with an intense narrative, painted with music, not with words. In Soliloquy, John Corigliano fuses strings and clarinet into an austere ambiance that evokes in me feelings of longing and uncertainty. The lush operatic sound of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet conjures an entire universe of expression in itself! And each of Finzi’s imaginative and effervescent Bagatelles effortlessly transports me into a world of wonder. Plato said, “Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination…” As you listen, I encourage you to let your mind and your imagination fly free and see where the music takes you.

Alex on his personal relationship to the music…

When I was a student at Juilliard I was fortunate to win the concerto competition and the piece that year was the Corigliano Clarinet Concerto. John Corigliano and Stanley Drucker (the long-time principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic and the person who premiered this concerto) were both on the jury. Needless to say that was a big honor for me and to top everything, the concert conducted by Robert Spano took place in Avery Fisher Hall (now David Geffen Hall) in Lincoln Center, the same hall where the piece was premiered by the New York Philharmonic, Stanley Drucker, and Leonard Bernstein. The year was 1999 and this was a very memorable experience for a 20 year old. The second movement of this concerto, which was dedicated to John Corigliano’s father (who for many years was the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic), was later arranged by the composer and named Soliloquy for Clarinet and String Quartet.