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Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld’s Top 10 Orchestral Clarinet Solos



By CSO Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld

As a 34-year veteran of the CSO, I am often asked what music I particularly like. With that in mind, I've devised a list of my top ten favorite orchestral clarinet solos. Come listen to the orchestra in our performances and you will hear many more examples of great musical passages featuring the clarinet!

10) Respighi: Pines of Rome (end of Pines of the Janiculum)
Respighi effectively highlights the tremendous ppp (pianississimo, or "very very quiet") capabilities of the instrument. As the clarinet sound floats away, a recording of a nightingale can be faintly heard.  

9) Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini
I love Tchaikovsky for his truly memorable melodies. This one especially shows off the expressive qualities of the instrument.


8) Brahms: Symphony No. 3 (opening of second movement)
Gorgeous! You can hear in this solo with woodwind chorale that Brahms had a particular fondness for the sound of the clarinet, and he knew just how to make it sing.

7) Puccini: Tosca (Act III, "E Lucevan le Stelle")
One of the greatest clarinet solos in opera literature, from one of the most readily recognizable Italian arias.


6) Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (beginning)
Anyone who has ever seen Woody Allen's film "Manhattan" knows there's no way I could leave this showstopper off the list. 

5) Bartok: The Miraculous Mandarin Suite
There are three big clarinet solos spread throughout this suite. And they are big: erotic, wild, frenzied cadenzas with lots of notes!


4) Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (middle of second movement)
The clarinet solo Beethoven wrote here really allows the sound of the instrument to soar above the orchestra.

3) Rimsky-Korsakoff: Cappriccio Espagnol 
A dazzling display of clarinet bravura and technique. 


2) Sibelius: Symphony No. 1 (beginning of first movement)
Another great lyrical solo for clarinet, especially showing off the instrument's ability to taper sound into nothingness.

1) Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 
This solo is one of the most romantic lyrical melodies ever written for the clarinet.



Honorable Mention: Kodaly's Dances of Galanta 
This solo and cadenza seem perfectly suited to the clarinet, full of gypsy character and technical pyrotechnics.

Posted in Classics. Tagged as CSO Musicians.

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