Jeanjean Project

I plan to learn and perform (and video) all 18 études from the book by that name by Paul Jeanjean over the next year.

Little is known about Jeanjean. Wikipedia has a tiny "stub" article about him. The most extensive article (very relative) about him is found on the US Marine Band site. It is quoted below in its entirety.

Paul Jeanjean (1874-1928)

Paul Jeanjean was the clarinet soloist with the French Garde Républicaine and later with the Classical Concert Orchestra at Monte Carlo. He is primarily remembered as a composer of works for the clarinet, but also composed for the bassoon, saxophone quartet, and cornet.

Probably the best known clarinet works by Jeanjean are his "Arabesques" for clarinet and piano, and his "Carnival of Venice" variations.

Jeanjean composed several étude books for clarinet besides the famous "18" (which is actually 17 plus a simple canonic duet). They are "Études Progressives et Mélodiques" in 3 books from easy to difficult, covering most tonalities.

He also composed the fairly well known "Vade-Mecum du Clarinettiste" (vade mecum is Latin for "go with me", and implies a reference book which is always with you), an exhaustive selection of purely technical finger and articulation exercises (with one haunting slow étude at the end).

But the book of 18 culminates his compositional endeavors as the most interesting and difficult of all the études he wrote for clarinet.

Though Jeanjean studied with the great Cyrille Rose, composer of the most widely used étude books for clarinet, Jeanjean's style of études are quite different from Rose. He used the musical language of his time, that of the Impressionists.

Included in the vernacular of the French Impressionists are: whole tone scales, augmented arpeggios, time signatures of expanded subdivisions such as 9/4 and 12/8, mixed meter and asymmetrical time signatures, complex rhythmical and tonal gestures including syncopation and distant key relationships. It could also be said that extreme dynamics and challenges to the instrument's range should be included, since that development was the case in all musical styles of the early 20th Century. Jeanjean succeeded in exploring all these new techniques with aplomb.

The book of 18 études also attempts to move beyond études to something more musically satisfying. While not all 18 are of musical character worthy of performance, many are.

I have performed many of these études over my career. But I have yet to play them all. My goal, which I am calling my "Jeanjean Project", is to perform them all over the next year or so. As I work on each étude, I will report what I discover about the piece, its content, musical ideas (or not), its technical challenges and how to overcome them.

I welcome feedback of any sort; including comments (hopefully constructive) about the recordings I post here or on YouTube, along with ideas or suggestions about the music and its techniques.

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15 comments for “Jeanjean Project

  1. teacher
    January 15, 2010 at

    Ok, thank you! But still wanting to know, in case anyone else might have an idea. 🙂

  2. teacher
    January 14, 2010 at

    Can anyone tell me the composition date for Jeanjean's Etude No. 3 for Unaccompanied Clarinet? Looking to fill out some program information. Thanks!

    • January 14, 2010 at

      That's a good question. Not much is known about Jeanjean, let alone his dates of composition. He lived from 1874-1928.

  3. Gretchen Roper
    September 23, 2009 at

    This is such a cool idea. I love how motivated you are to improving your skills all the time. You inspire me to go practice and try your ideas. Can't wait for more. 🙂 Thanks!

    • September 24, 2009 at

      Hi Gretchen. It's a fine line between a whine blog and a practice blog. But you hit the nail on the head as to my intentions!! I hope others will take my explorations and use them in their own practice. Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. September 22, 2009 at

    Frank Marinaccio, principal of the RI Philharmonic. I lost touch with him when I moved out of Rhode Island in the early 90s. 🙁

    Before I edited the Wikipedia article on Jeanjean, it was 299 bytes long. Afterward, it was 608 — not terribly impressive. 🙁

    • September 22, 2009 at

      Got it! Sorry, I didn't see your name there. Nice to meet you. I'll look up Frank and see if he still teaches them. I'd like to know more teachers who use those etudes.

  5. September 21, 2009 at

    The scary thing is that I doubled the length of that Jeanjean article. 🙁

    Looking forward to seeing how this project comes out. My teacher had me work on the Jeanjean etudes, and I still love them…

    • September 22, 2009 at

      Garrett, not sure I understand what you mean. "The scary thing is that I doubled the length of that Jeanjean article." Who was your teacher?

  6. Melanie
    September 19, 2009 at

    Wow. I think it's been almost 20 years since I played those etudes. They are very technical, but also very musical as I recall. I look forward to learning them again through your posts…

    • September 19, 2009 at

      Thanks Melanie. I look forward to the process. It feels good to have a goal.

  7. September 18, 2009 at

    Looking forward to your posts on this, my favorite writer for solo clarinet. Thanks for undertaking!

    • September 18, 2009 at

      Thanks Bill. Started working on Etude 1 in earnest. Glad to have a focus.

  8. September 17, 2009 at

    What a worthwhile and ambitious project! Good luck.

    • September 17, 2009 at

      Thank you Betsy. I'll need some luck, but mostly gumption and, what shall I call it, \”motivation\”? The word sticks in my throat. Where to find such a rare substance? Oh yes, I'll have to make my own. But it's public now. So, I'd better get to it.

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