Unaccompanied clarinet solo
The clarinet solo is a form of music that has seen enormous growth in the 20th century. Previously, solo music for clarinet was always with an accompaniment, such as the piano for the clarinet sonata, or an orchestra for concertos. The 20th century, and into the 21st has seen a rise of pieces written for an unaccompanied clarinet, with these solos forming a larger part of the repertoire as clarinet players embrace the chance for stand-alone greatness.
One of the most famous collections of pieces for a solo clarinet is the three pieces by Igor Stravinsky. All short pieces (ranging from one minute to one minute 45 seconds). Written in 1918, Stravinsky has proved the inspiration for other composers to write music for unaccompanied clarinet. Both Olivier Messiaen with ‘Quatuor pour la fin du temps’, written in 1940 and his student Pierre Boulez with ‘Domaines I’ written in 1968 have used the solo clarinet for their pieces. Other famous composers of the 20th century to write for unaccompanied clarinet include Luciano Berio who wrote both ‘Lied per clarinetto solo’ and ‘Sequenza IXb’ in the early 1980s; Andre Jolivet with ‘Ascèses’ and works by Richard Rodney Bennett, Lennox Berkeley and Pierre Max Dubois.
Most pieces for a solo clarinet will feature on both the tonal qualities of the clarinet and the agility that is attainable by talented players. An advanced player is well advised to include an unaccompanied piece for clarinet in their repertoire or audition program, as it is a good chance to shine as a solo instrument, and show that you are not afraid to be heard!
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