Chamber Music Northwest: David Shifrin & Friends

“… a score truly inspired by a tragic event (9/11) and one that is likely to transcend it.” — Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine

Thus did a leading critic sum up the remarkable Concerto for Clarinet (chamber orchestra version) by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, one of America’s cutting-edge contemporary composers. And this is but one of this release’s four vibrant modern chamber works for clarinet and various chamber ensembles by major composers: music that greatly enriches the modern chamber repertoire.

Filling out the fascinating program are Aaron Copland’s brisk and brainy Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and String Quartet, Stephen Hartke’s delightfully wacky The Horse with the Lavender Eye, and Aaron Jay Kernis’ richly evocative Trio in Red. The performers – all among the finest soloists and chamber artists anywhere – are drawn from the ranks of Chamber Music Northwest and its legendary director, renowned clarinet virtuoso David Shifrin.

Composers: Copland; Hartke; Kernis; Zwilich

Artists: David Shifrin, clarinet; Fred Sherry, cello; Ani Kavafian, violin; Daniel Phillips, violin; Anne-Marie McDermott, piano; Ida Kavafian, violin; Paul Neubauer, viola; Theodore Arm, Daniel Ching, Catherine Cho, Sandy Yamomoto, Cornelia Heard, violin; John Largess, Todd Phillips, viola; Josua Gindele, cello; Edgar Meyer, double bass; Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Allan Vogel, oboe; Julie Feves, bassoon; William Purvis, John Cox, horn; Sally Nelson Kuhns, cornet; Niel DePonte, percussion; Ransom Wilson, conductor;


We hardly need to elaborate on Aaron Copland’s deathless reputation and role in the annals of American music. No other domestic composer has topped his marvelous contributions to classical “Americana.” Yet, like many composers, it took him awhile to find his true musical voice. The fairly early Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and String Quartet (1937) is Copland’s own chamber arrangement of his Short Symphony (1933): a work that, owing to its complexity, suffered a dismal performance history. The Sextet version, a beautifully crafted and cerebral piece, is similarly difficult to play: the main reason why it is seldom heard. But this vibrant, jazz-inflected music deserves far greater exposure than it has gotten – offering a certain brainy charm, sweetly lyrical moments and arresting rhythmic vitality. Listen for copious examples of Copland’s signature harmonic and rhythmic schemes, though delivered in a much more complex and forthright style than was to come. You may well never hear a more exciting and accomplished performance of the piece than this one.

Track Listing

    Aaron Copland: Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and String Quartet

  1. Allegro vivace
  2. Lento
  3. Finale
  4. Stephen Hartke: The Horse with the Lavender Eye

  5. Music of the Left
  6. The Servant of Two Masters
  7. Waltzing at the Abyss
  8. Cancel My Rumba Lesson
  9. Aaron Jay Kernis: Trio in Red

  10. Orange Circle, Yellow Line
  11. Red Whirl
  12. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra

  13. I.
  14. II. Elegy: September 11
  15. III.
  16. IV.