Clarinetist Scott Locke has released a commendable recorded collection of music for solo clarinet spanning nearly the entire 20th century.
The earliest composition on the CD is Stravinsky's canonical 1918 Three Pieces, which along with Willson Osborn's well known 1958 Rhapsody (originally for bassoon), are the only works familiar to me.
The CD jacket states the Stravinsky was recorded live. Locke's performance and interpretation was impressively natural and effortless. In fact throughout the CD, Dr. Locke rises to all technical and musical challenges with aplomb. His big, chunky sound never interfered when lightness and sparkle were needed.
The title composition, Celestial Dreamscape (1997) by Deborah Kavasch and two other works, Canyon Music (2000) by John Steffa and Stanos 1 (1993) by Kristine H. Burns, were written for Dr. Locke.
I enjoyed getting to know the two contrasting movements of Kavasch's meditative Celestial Dreamscape, which seemed to have an appealing combination of technical challenge, including some cool sounding multi-phonics, and musical depth.
The slow first movement ("a stillness of moonlight"), along with several other pieces on the CD) attests to the seminal and prevailing influence of Olivier Messiaen's Abyss of the Birds from Quartet for the End of Time. The second, much faster movement ("a sparkle of starlight") states a jagged theme of sorts, then develops it recognizably.
The three movements of John Steffa's Canyon Music stuck less well with me. The electronic accompaniment sounds like music from Dr. Who. (If you don't know Dr. Who, Google it. If you do, you know what I mean) Perhaps with some strobe lights and Daleks running around...
Raga Music (1956) by John Mayer, also recorded from live performances, is unknown to me. The nine very short movements (some only 26 seconds) may have Indian names, but stylistically they are jazz and Messiaen influenced. Though they do not break any new ground in music (even for the 50s), they are worth considering to add accessible variety to a recital. I wonder if these recordings were taken from different performances in different halls, since the acoustics sound markedly different in several of them.
Kristine Burns' Atanos 1, has what sounds like a piano accompaniment, but no, it's "Disklavier". This is serious "plink plank plonk" music, and sounds like a devil to perform; and I might add, enticing and funky enough to consider playing. My question to Scott: what ARE those high notes, and what kind of reed plays them?! Do reeds come in strength #6?
Reversible Jackets (1987) for flute and clarinet by Dan Welcher, features the only other live person (Stephanie Rea, flute) playing (impressively) on this otherwise solo CD. Written as a wedding present for friends, this playful duet in canon is pleasant and well constructed. Within the fairly serious second movement (honeymoon over?) Mendelssohn's Wedding March is briefly quoted, and the music ends with a smile.
Scott Locke, with a Doctor of Arts from Ball State University, also studied at U. of Southern California with Mitchell Lurie. He has performed solo and chamber music in and around Washington DC, and at the University of Georgia, Arkansas State University, Illinois State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Perdue University, Anderson University and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Dr. Locke also performed on a concert tour of France and has soloed with the Indianapolis Symphony as a Vistas in Performance winner.
Currently he is Associate Professor of Clarinet at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, and is principal clarinet in the Paducah Symphony Orchestra.