Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Best Pieces I'll (Probably) Never Play

I'm sure most musicians have at least one...a piece they could listen to on repeat for hours, that excites them about music, that they walk around singing and conducting...but it's for an instrument or ensemble completely outside their idiom. I have three such works- I'd love to play them, but can't figure out how to or don't want to make them work for clarinet for one reason or another.
1. String Quartet in F major, Maurice Ravel
The version on my ipod: Performed by the Dante Quartet
I love this piece. Especially the second movement, arguably the most famous part of it. Ravel's only string quartet is one of the only works that I'm fairly certain I will never play. Mostly, because I simply don't play strings. But also because I feel like arranging a string quartet for winds would destroy its character. The pizzicato of the second movement is what really brings it to life and I simply think it would be hard to do justice to the pizz./arco contrast. The closest I came to playing this piece was reading through a piano transcription of it, but even that didn't feel right.

2. Concierto de Aranjuez, Joaquin Rodrigo
The version on my ipod: Performed by Carlos Bonell and L'Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal conducted by Charles Dutoit (though I really want versions by John Williams and Angel Romero)
There is a glimmer of hope for the next two pieces, as I hope to someday play them as an orchestra member. I don't think I could even try to arrange this for clarinet; guitar is about as foreign as instruments get for me. To me, this piece feels like it should accompany a screen play. The story that plays in my mind as I listen to it is of two young lovers, meeting in some exotic place in Europe, but torn apart when one of them travels to America to be a musician or something equally lofty and romantic. It made me smile when I found out it was about Rodrigo and his wife's honeymoon, and the gardens of Aranjuez in Spain. With a little more research, I found that an arrangement of what seems to be the second movement for clarinet, described somewhat pretentiously here.

3. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Sergei Rachmaninoff
The version on my ipod: Performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn
Ideas for arranging this for clarinet/piano have been rattling around in my head for a while. The other night I finally found the two-piano version and I think it made my brain explode. I knew there were a lot of notes in it, but at this point in time, I don't think I could arrange it without losing too many of them, or relegating them to the poor piano 2 part, who is already playing a Rachmaninoff orchestra reduction. Last night I was discussing other sets of Paganini variations with folks on twitter, trying to figure out of any would be more accessible. This piece for 2 pianos by Witold Lutoslawski and this piece for solo piano by Robert Muczynski were mentioned. I do love the Paganini theme, but I've always been drawn to Rachmaninoff's setting of it.

So, these are my big three...the pieces that I'd kill to play. Do you have one?

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