Ok, here goes the first post of many about the Jeanjean Book of 18. I bought a new copy recently since my old one, which I've had since High School, was beat up and marked up. I've always loved these etudes, their corny sensuality, their inventiveness, their extreme challenge. With any music, but particularly with French music, the performer must make the music sound effortless.
Jeanjean wrote little in his forward to the book.
The 18 Jeanjean Studies in their construction represent a revolutionary departure from present day clarinet music literature, because they prepare the clarinetist to read and execute various odd melodic chord formations and intricate rhythmic figures found in the symphonic works by the "MODERNISTS".
For example Etude #2 contains chord formations of the augmented 5th, 9ths, 13ths and their inversion.
Etude #5 is dedicated to the study of the Whole Tone scale, also 5/8 and 7/4 rhythms.
Etude #6 contains rhythmic figures in 5/4 and Etude #8 is a study in 1/4 rhythm.
Etude #18 is in Canon form, a study for 2 clarinets.
He then mentions the other excerpts of his own music and that of his contemporaries in the clarinet world, Delmas, Sporck, Gateau, Avon and Niverd, which are included to improve your tone and virtuosity to prepare you for the big, bad music world.
Gearing up for the preparation of the first etude, I've been playing slow scales in octaves at piano volume. As you may know, this etude focuses on large legato leaps, one of the trickier challenges on the clarinet. I concentrated on maintaining voicing integrity between the notes, allowing the note to float up to the higher octave. No lip or jaw pressure. The octave practice made it a lot easier before I even began the etude.
Now for the interpretation. Jeanjean is quite specific in his interpretative notations. The piece is marked "lent et expressif" with a note décomposez (sub-divide), to be sure it is not played too fast. The 6/4 measure is often played in a slow 2, so this will be counted in a flowing 6.
Yet the first half phrase, marked "doux et expressif", is six bars long, making it difficult to play it without a breath, as I prefer to do. I chose quarter=80-84 as a good tempo to accomplish what Jeanjean seems to want, a slow, flowing phrase with a long line. The first full phrase is 12 bars long, ending with the F in the beginning of the fourth line of music.
His dynamics are marked to be challenging. The first note begins pp and within 4 beats crescendos to mf. The second part of the phrase begins again in pp, then crescendos to f expr. in 6 beats; the second half of the full phrase crescendos to f as in the first half, but the second part forces the player to crescendo from pp to f in just 3 beats on a high C. It would almost be easier to play the phrases with much smaller dynamic range, but Mr. JJ demands tonal control through a greater dynamic range.