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Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld’s Top 10 Orchestral Bass Clarinet Solos


In a previous blog post, I featured a list of my favorite orchestral clarinet solos. While a significant amount of my in the orchestra is spent playing the clarinet, there are many occasions when you can also catch me at CSO concerts performing on the bass clarinet. The bass clarinet is often featured for its ability to fortify and color the woodwind section. Nevertheless, there are some spectacular passages that spotlight the appeal of this magnificent instrument as a solo instrument in its own right.

Here are my Top 10 Orchestral Bass Clarinet Solos:

10) William Schuman's Symphony No. 3 (Part II, Toccata)

After a brief snare drum solo, the bass clarinet introduces the thematic material for the Toccata movement. Here is a chance to hear the bass clarinet whip up and down the lowest and highest parts of its range in an impressive display of virtuosic technique.

9) Gershwin's Concerto in F (Second movement)

This is a clarinet section soli accompanying various wind solos. It shows how wonderful the clarinets sound together with the bass clarinet filling out the bass line. Of particular note is the slinky and sensuous close harmony, which is unmistakably the sound of Gershwin!



8) Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, middle of Pas de Deux)

The Sugar Plum Fairy solo is a classic -- instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent time in an elevator during Christmas season. The Pas de Deux solo is an especially tender bit of melodic writing for the bass clarinet.

7) Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8 (Fifth movement)

Low register mischief displays the boisterous side of the instrument's personality. 



6) Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (Act II, scene 3)

Wagner may have understood the lyrical capabilities and expressive character of the bass clarinet better than any other composer. These gorgeous opera passages really dig deep into the mournful, introspective side of the instrument.

5) Wagner's Die Walkure (Act II, scene 2; Act III, scene 3)

These two opera scenes showcase some of the best of the many big moments for bass clarinet in Wagner's Ring Cycle. For a truly outstanding example of great bass clarinet playing, try to get your hands on the Metropolitan Opera recording featuring former CSO clarinetist Jim Ognibene, who sadly passed away last year.



4) Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (Opening)

You've heard of Dueling Banjos; these are dueling bass clarinets!

3) Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony (First movement)

This is one of the prettiest melodies written for the instrument. It features the lyrical solo capabilities inherent in the bass clarinet's deep, dark voice.



2) Mahler's Symphony No. 6 (First movement)

Mahler and the bass clarinet go together like fine red wine and dark chocolate. Don't miss a lot more great writing for the instrument in Symphonies 1, 4, 7, and 9.

1) Khachaturian's Piano Concerto

Soaring, sustained solo passages venture into the lowest of low notes on the bass clarinet. Listen also for the unusual sound of a Flexatone -- a rarely scored percussion instrument. See also: Beginning and ending of second movement.

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, Musicians.

The Classical Series: Reimagined


Your Charlotte Symphony's virtual concerts have already been viewed by thousands of people and received widespread acclaim, with a critic from Classical Voice North Carolina observing that, "the Charlotte Symphony's [virtual concert series] demonstrates the persistence and resilience of the arts and artists and the organization's commitment to its musicians, as well as its listening community."

We're reimagining what it means to serve as your orchestra during the pandemic, and it's been thrilling to find new and innovative ways to bring the music directly to you and your families. 

But we're just getting started! The New Year brings four new virtual concerts.

Highlights include:

  • The return of Music Director Christopher Warren-Green conducting works by Elgar, Holst, Mozart, and more.
  • The continuation of our celebration of Beethoven 250 with performances of his First and Seventh Symphonies.
  • Concertmaster Calin Ovidiu Lupanu and Principal Trumpet Alex Wilborn take center stage for concerti by Mendelssohn and Hummel, respectively. 
  • Contemporary works by Jessie Montgomery and Leonardo Balada, led by Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees.
 

We're Here to Help

We want you to make sure that everything is working for you once you're settled in to watch our concerts. Please check out this blog post for information on how to access the CSO's virtual concerts. We also have step-by-step instructions for how to stream the concert from a variety of devices, including your computer, phone, or smart TV.  

If you would prefer to speak to someone, please contact Patron Services at 704.972.2000 or ticketoffice@charlottesymphony.org
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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, Music Director, Musicians, Virtual Concerts.

What I have learned (and am learning) as a professional musician


By Violinist Jenny Topilow

As an orchestral player and violinist, like all musicians, I have a long list of compositions that I turn to time and time again for emotional and aesthetic fulfillment on a personal level; works that are particularly beautiful and/or satisfying to me. These pieces include the late Beethoven Quartets, Stravinsky's "Petrushka," Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," Shostakovich Symphony No. 10, the Bartok Quartets, Debussy's "La Mer," Caroline Shaw's "Partita for Eight Voices," and Andy Akiho's "21," to name a few. 

It's funny to think, however, that the most memorable and important moments that I have had as a member of the Charlotte Symphony really have nothing to do with my list of favorite works. The most poignant experiences of my tenure as a musician are exactly that, experiences; experiences that have deeply moved me, changed my perception, taught me, connected me to those around me, and have brought me closer to my community.

Major side note: I'm not a huge fan of the term "classical music" as I feel that "classical" is simply a descriptor of a specific era in Western music (i.e. Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms). I would never discount the absolute brilliance of those composers, yet the breadth of what is coined as "classical music" encompasses so much more than what the antiquated term has to offer. Maybe "orchestral music" and "art music," etc., could serve our purposes better.

But, I digress, because even if I personally believe it's outdated, I still call myself a "classical musician," since the label itself is the most recognized tag for what I do -- interpret and play music written by other people. In that sense, we are more like actors; we are not creators, we are not artists (in my opinion), but we have devoted ourselves to creators and artists. So at its core, even though it is vast, every orchestra on the planet plays music from a finite pool of works. That being said, what I have learned is that it is not the music (alone) that makes an orchestra, but the community that it is part of. The Charlotte Symphony belongs to all of Charlotte; every member of the community should feel ownership of the organization and all arts organizations throughout the city. It's this sense of ownership that builds commitment, connection, and those beautiful, profound experiences through music that are transcendent, beyond the notes on the page. All art for all people.

It would be remiss of me to not give personal examples of music plus circumstance making for meaningful experience. Here are two:
  1. The CSO accompanied the Morehouse College Glee Club in a performance of Atlanta based composer Joel Thompson's "Seven Last Words of the Unarmed," a work that uses the liturgical format of Haydn's "Seven Last Words of Christ" to honor and humanize black men unjustly murdered, namely Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Kenneth Chamberlain, Amadou Diallo, and John Crawford. It is a sobering piece that reminds us of how powerful art can be when inspired by, and dedicated to, relevant and pertinent issues. The experience of the performance connected everyone in the room through a shared understanding of the necessity of the message and the emotion of that message being delivered through song by those directly affected by the theme of the work.

  2. Last season the CSO started a series called CSO Off the Rails, where smaller ensembles curate programs to be played at Snug Harbor, a local club/bar/music venue and Charlotte staple. Essentially standing room only with a small stage about three feet off the ground, these shows are really an immersive and interactive experience, bringing what we do to an audience that wouldn't necessarily seek out music at a concert hall. The success of the series, the energy surrounding it, and the electric atmosphere in the room during performances has solidified in my mind that "classical music" is completely accessible to everyone when we remove the formality and actively engage with the community.
These are just a few examples of many, and I feel unendingly grateful to be in a field where these experiences are not only possible, but essential. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

Playing for the Panthers

We got a kick out of opening this Sunday's Carolina Panthers game with a rousing rendition of The National Anthem. The game may have been a loss for the Panthers, but it was a win for Byron Johns (French horn), Alex Wilborn, Jonathan Kaplan (trumpet), Thomas Burge (trombone), and Scott Hartman (bass trombone), who didn't fumble a single note. Go team!

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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

The path to playing professionally, by CSO Violist Viara Stefanova


Making music isn't like listening to music. It isn't like anything else in life. It is something very special for all musicians. It's our life, our call, and our love. Experiencing the power of playing on stage is unlike any other experience or feeling. There is so much meaning in the melodies and harmonies we play; it's a world of constant discoveries of the human's state of mind, heart, and soul. Once we've been on stage, we can never forget it, and we keep doing it no matter how many challenges we might face.

It all starts in our childhood. At first we're curious and excited about the instrument we pick. We learn a couple of songs and then some harder songs, and it's all good and still exciting. Later on, when we are ready to play not just songs, but some classical repertoire, the real challenge appears. Sometimes practicing seems tedious, tiring, and frustrating. Many times it felt like we would never get it right, no matter how hard we tried. Day after day, after hours of practicing, we would find out how much perseverance, patience, and determination we would need to achieve a higher level of understanding and perform the music we love. The more we played though, the more difficult it got and the more we knew that our love for music would take us to an unimaginable beauty. Before we learned any piece of music, we would have to study the different styles, forms, and structure of the music.

Once we were in college we continued to learn how to practice efficiently and wisely; what to do to avoid the sore muscles and physical pains from over practicing. We would continue with even more patience and would keep pressing on, since the professional auditions are tough. We had to compete with hundreds of fellow musicians for one spot in the orchestra. We had to stay healthy emotionally after we failed an audition and learn how to deal with it.

"The more we played though, the more difficult it got and the more we knew that our love for music would take us to an unimaginable beauty."

The more challenging it got, the more fascinated we were, and the better we understood the incredible genius of the composers. Every chord, every harmony is there for a purpose. The complicated works by composers like Brahms, Mahler, or Tchaikovsky are difficult not only technically but also musically. A performer needs to be experienced and mature to understand the music and perform it the way it's meant to be performed. The simple melodies of the classical composers like Mozart or Beethoven are even harder to perform because it takes a world to achieve the lightness and simplicity of their music. Every note is so exposed, every slip of the finger can be heard. It all takes a practice-until-perfection approach. And even though we can't be perfect, we continuously aim for it. There is no other way to play an exceptional work of art.

So, we do whatever it takes to bring to life the amazing music that influences people's lives; because we understand what a great privilege it is to perform works written by some of the most extraordinary minds born on this earth. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

Celebrating the Power of Women in Art

A special collaboration between the Charlotte Symphony and The Mint Museum



In celebration of The Mint Museum's new installation, Foragers, the Charlotte Symphony and The Mint partnered with Wells Fargo to create a short film that unites the visual and performing arts. 

The artistic collaboration features Charlotte Symphony violinist Jenny Topilow, violist Alaina Rea, cellist Sarah Markle, and harpist Andrea Mumm Trammell performing works by Arvo Pärt and Caroline Shaw in front of Summer Wheat's contemporary work of art in the Mint's Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium.

We welcome you to experience the power of women in art presented at the intersection of art, architecture, and music.

This special presentation is brought to you by Wells Fargo, The Private Bank.
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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

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.

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as CSO Musicians.

CLTSymphony X Beatties Ford Strong



This fall, CSO musicians and the Beatties Ford Strong Project came together to create a video project that was inspired by and features the music of Brooklyn-based violinist and composer Jessica Montgomery, and showcases the Beatties Ford Strong Project, violinist/composer Lady Jess, musicians of the Charlotte Symphony, and Charlotte-based artists. 

Below, we hear from CSO violinist Jenny Topilow, educator/artist/social activist Ricky Singh, and Charlotte-based artists on how the collaboration was conceived, their reactions, and what comes next.


"We have been referring to the project as CLTSymphony X Beatties Ford Strong" Ricky says. "The X is intentional, for we feel that a title that is purposefully not combined respects each entity as having its own identity, and also allows for either side of the equation to be replaced or modified as the project evolves to encourage further community engagement."



"I've always been enamored with public art," Jenny shares, "murals and such that everyone can enjoy by simply being a member of the community; beautiful pieces by talented artists that become interwoven throughout the landscape and make a place more vibrant and colorful."

In February of this year, a quartet of CSO musicians played Jessie Montgomery's Strum for a CSO Off the Rails concert at Snug Harbor. According to Jenny:

We completely fell in love with the piece. We were slated to play it again, but when the pandemic hit, that performance was of course canceled. So, it occurred to me that it would be a lovely marriage to record 'Strum,' during this new virtual age, in front of public art in Charlotte, specifically works created by people of color.

Excited about the idea, I reached out to a muralist friend of mine, who got me in touch with Ricky Singh. Ricky is an artist, educator, community leader/activist, and one of the founders of the Beatties Ford Strong/Historic West End Project, an initiative to beautify neglected areas of the city through public art paired with community ownership, brought about as a reaction to the June 19, 2020 massacre on Beatties Ford Road, where four people were killed and several others injured.

My introduction to Ricky was the catalyst for the project to really take flight through intentional collaboration. We communicate well and ended up making a good team; we are mutually intent on the vision and are invested in being proactive and bringing the best of what we know to the table. All that being said, there is no way for me to truly express how grateful I am to Ricky. He is a beacon within the Charlotte community, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have formed a partnership with him.

There are so many artistic circles throughout Charlotte that are too often separated by class and race. The purpose of this project is to bring some of those circles together; not for one to overshadow another, not for one to do the other a favor, not for one to mold to the other, but for local creatives to do what they love all within the same space. We are committed to having more multi-faceted performances throughout Charlotte, through the lens of all art being accessible to all people, and with the ultimate objective of limitless circles overlapping to create a more connected city.


"My experience with the project was nothing like I ever experienced before," Artist Michael Grant shares. "This project captured both classical art and visual arts simultaneously. As an artist this project made me feel valuable and appreciated. It was such an honor to be a part of this moment of history and to collaborate with great artists as well." 

Artist Makayla Binter also shares that "[the project] was just so pure and enjoyable because of the connection between artistic forms, and just the positive energy that creating makes. It was a great experience to live paint and also meet some very talented artists in music that I had never met before."


Ricky and Jenny plan to unveil the finished video at an event on a large screen, where they would also auction off the pieces of art created during filming. It is not finalized, but they are hoping to utilize a space like Camp Northend, where people can come to a beautiful outdoor area and celebrate in a Covid-safe way. All proceeds would go to provide local youth programming tied to the arts. 

Credits:


Organized by Ricky Singh and Jenny Topilow

Featured Artists:
Michael Grant (@infamous_kiddo)
Makayla Binter (
@mkay_15)
Ricky Singh (
@mrrickysingh)
DJ Pauly Guwop (
@djpaulyguwop)
Lord Phly (
@lordphly)
Lute West (
@lute_west9)
Dancer: Jessica Thompson (
@babyhairprincess)
Spoken Word: Hannah Hasan (
@iamhannahhasan)
CSO Musicians: Jenny Topilow, violin; Lenora Leggatt, violin; Ben Geller, viola; and Sarah Markle, cello

Videographer/video & sound editor:

Bob Rydel
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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

Remembering Former CSO Bass Clarinetist Jim Ognibene



By Gene Kavadlo, former principal clarinetist of the Charlotte Symphony

As the orchestra was rehearsing, the loud sound of a vacuum cleaner in the lobby was becoming increasingly annoying. Finally, the conductor asked his assistant, a rather diminutive fellow, to see if he could do something about it. Jordan went to the lobby. Suddenly there was a THWAP! and the annoying sound stopped abruptly. Without missing a beat, Jim said "Oh no, now we're going to have to get Jordan out of the bag." Anyone who knew Jim knew that he was the sharpest wit in the room. My children, now in their 40's, always referred to him as "our Jim." Our Jim succumbed to a 17 year battle with cancer on August 11, 2020.

I first met Jim in our student days at Indiana University during the 1960's. After college Jim served four years in the military as a member of the US Marine Band and White House Orchestra, and I went on to become the Principal Clarinetist of the Charlotte Symphony in N.C. One day I got a call that started with "You probably don't remember me..." It was Jim, and of course I knew exactly who he was. He had taken an audition with the Charlotte Symphony and won the job - beginning a fabulous eight year relationship as colleagues in the same Orchestra. It was in the Charlotte Symphony that Jim started playing the bass clarinet. There had been an older gentleman playing, but his skills were declining. One day the instrument fell over as it was resting in its stand, and Jim declared that it had committed suicide. 

When Jim won a job at the MET I had very mixed feelings. I didn't want to lose my dear colleague, but he certainly couldn't pass up a career move like that. Before leaving Charlotte Jim found out that one of his first assignments would be to play the basset horn obligato from Mozart's Clemenza di Tito. Jim had never played the basset horn, nor heard Clemenza di Tito. We listened to a recording in my living room (before YouTube days), and Jim burst out laughing. When I asked him what was so funny, he said "I'm so glad I get to play this at the MET before I play it someplace really important." Naturally, his performance several weeks later was superb. Thus began his 33 year tenure as Principal Bass Clarinetist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Jim's playing can be heard on numerous Grammy award winning Metropolitan Orchestra recordings, including Wagner's Ring Cycle on Deutsche Gramophone. He was also a member of the All-Star Orchestra made up of leading players from major American Orchestras. He served many summers in the Spoleto, Grand Teton, Bard, Napa Valley and Verbier festivals, and was an instructor at Julliard.

Former Principal Oboist of the MET, John Ferrillo, visited Jim a few days before he passed and played some beautiful oboe music for him. This is a story from John: "When Jim was stationed with the Marine Band in DC, he was dating an oboist. On a number of occasions he would make the 3 hour drive to Philly to bring her to her lesson with John deLancie, first oboist for the Philadelphia Orchestra. On one of those drives he needed to use the bathroom; when he asked permission, Mr. deLanci told him no.

"Years later, Mr. and Madame deLancie came to the MET. They were ardent opera fans. At the end of one of the performances, they met me at the gift shop. Before we parted company, he asked me who was playing the basset horn in Clemenza di Tito two broadcasts ago. I was delighted - 'funny you should mention him; that was my close friend, Jim Ognibene.' 'Well...let me tell you - that was some of the finest woodwind playing I have ever heard!' 'Why, Mr. deLancie, that's Jim coming through the doors right there.' Mr. deLancie insisted on taking Jim aside and spoke avidly to him for a number of minutes. For Jim it was one of the greatest accolades he'd ever received."

Later that night, I called Jim. Of course, I knew the line was coming. "I thought the time was right for me to ask if I could use his bathroom now."


Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim's family and friends.
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Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

A thank you to arts educators, from CSO Musicians

This week we're celebrating Arts in Education Week, a national celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. As professional musicians, Principal Clarinetist Taylor Marino and horn player Andrew Fierova have been profoundly affected by their music education. We asked them to share their stories. 


Taylor Marino, Principal Clarinetist:

"Having grown up in Charlotte, I owe this city and its music educators a great deal of gratitude for supporting me and inspiring me to pursue a musical life, which ultimately led me back home to be a part of the Charlotte Symphony. 

My middle school band director at South Charlotte Middle School, Carl Ratliff, had a profound influence on me and taught me to pursue excellence, stay focused, and enjoy the beauty that music has to offer. I think of him often, and his great playing and musicianship as a saxophonist was inspiring as well.
At Providence High School, my band director Paul Jackson was an incredible man with a work ethic and drive like I had never seen before. Even while battling cancer, he showed up to rehearsal every day and gave every ounce of energy to the music. His devotion and commitment has stuck with me forever and even though he very tragically passed away 8 years ago, his passion and love of music lives on every day in myself and all the students he influenced. 

My private clarinet teachers, Jim Ruth and Michael Hough were also very important figures in my life. Jim Ruth started me on clarinet at the Music and Arts store and taught me great fundamental exercises that jump started my proficiency in music. Michael Hough, who is band director at Providence Day School and plays with the symphony often, really fine-tuned my playing and prepared me for the rigorous journey that a life in music would be. 

I am beyond grateful to be back in my hometown sharing music with the community that has given me such wonderful musical support."

Andrew Fierova, Horn:

"Music was an important part of my public schooling from elementary through high school in South Carolina's School District 6. It led me to discover a love of performing that set me on my current career path. I loved singing with our elementary school chorus, especially when the songs had corresponding motions. My second elementary school provided the opportunity to join a recorder ensemble, where I learned my first wind instrument. When I got to middle school, I started learning the horn. Band in middle school provided a confidence booster, as I found something that I was truly good at. This helped me to succeed in the rest of school and also find my friend group.

Dorman high school had a very well-supported music program and nice facilities. I was given the opportunity to perform in multiple ensembles, from orchestra to jazz band, as well as outside opportunities like honor bands. These continued opportunities solidified my desire to become a performer.  Without the amazing band directors that helped me along the way, I would not be a member of the Charlotte Symphony today!" Read more

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Education, Musicians.

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