Video: Paul Jeanjean Clarinet Etude #1 from Book of 18, with new Accompaniment by Joseph Hallman

For the past several years, the clarinet works of composer Paul Jeanjean have been featured often in my posts, most notably his famous book of 18 Études de Perfectionnement, a collection of advanced and somewhat modern (in the 1920s) studies for clarinet solo. Yet I always wondered how they might sound with a piano accompaniment part.

Throughout my solo career I have often performed various of these 18 Études in public, believing them to be a worthy listening experience for an audience. However, while public performance of studies for piano are common (such as by composers such as piano studies by Chopin or Rachmaninoff), clarinet etudes do not seem to merit the same attention. Why is this? The reason may be that the piano can "accompany" itself, with chords and counterpoint, in musically satisfying ways not possible on the clarinet, which can play only single note musical content. Yet the musical merit of the Jeanjean 18 Études is undeniable.

So I contacted composer Joseph Hallman, whom I met through social media, and presented the prospect of composing new accompaniments. He was impressed by the musical quality of the études and eager to work with me. So began the project of commissioning new accompaniments to many of the Jeanjean 18 études de perfectionnement.

I encouraged Joseph to be free and creative with the new accompaniments. I wanted them to be fresh and new, while still complimenting the older original unaccompanied clarinet parts. Thus far, I have commissioned 8 new accompaniments to various études from the book of 18. I have performed a few of them, but have not had the opportunity to perform others, including étude #1.

The first étude features long, arching lines for the clarinet, and has always been one of my favorites. Mr. Hallman has composed an accompaniment that begins by complimenting the delicate chords implied by the first arching phrases of the etude. But as the clarinet part becomes more agitated, the piano part becomes more ornamental and jagged, building under the increasingly intense clarinet part, culminating and abruptly ending in frantic exasperation, which then leaves the clarinet alone to peak and float back to return to the first ethereal melodic material.

I present you with the premiere performance on January 17, 2015 of Jeanjean Étude #1 with the new piano part by Joseph Hallman. The pianist for the performance is Virginia Lum, who unfortunately is not visible in this video. (The performance was part of a memorial service for my recently deceased mother, for whom I had performed these etudes while she was still living, and which she had greatly enjoyed. I know she would have enjoyed the new accompaniment as well.)

Here is the YouTube video of that performance. Enjoy.

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