Thomas Ades' Catch and the Traveling Clarinet
ONE AUDIO PIECE: MUSIC You may know the story of Franz Joseph Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony, but it's a fun one that bears repeating, so here goes: Haydn's patron, Prince Nikolaus EsterhÃ¡zy, liked to summer at his country estate, Esterhaza,Â far away from the din and smog of the city. WhenÂ the princeÂ left for the summers, he took his whole entourage with him, including his orchestra, which Haydn directed. The orchestra'sÂ musicians, who had left their families back in town for the summer sojourn, thought the summer of 1772 was getting a little long. So they kvetched to Papa Haydn and foundÂ a sympathetic ear. Haydn composed a symphony whose final movement calls forÂ the orchestraÂ musicians toÂ exit the stage a few at a time while playing, leaving only two violinists on stageÂ to bring the work to a close. Haydn's "farewell" gimmick mightÂ be the most famous example of aÂ classicalÂ work whose spatial dimension in performance is as meaningful as the notes on the score, butÂ it wasn't the last. Contemporary composer Thomas AdÃ¨s'Â work Catch (1991) hasÂ a fun, almost comicalÂ itinerant clarinetist, along with all the interesting tone colors and unusual texture of the very best new music. A cellist, a pianist, and a violinist begin the piece on stage with a brilliant sound world: [audio:ades_catch.mp3] The three carry on until the clarinetist enters from backstage and runs across the stage and through the ensemble. On the clarinetist's third sprint, the ensemble ensnares him (or her), and the onstage trio becomes a foursome. I do not knowÂ whether AdÃ¨s intended the traveling clarinet to be cute or humorous, but in my view it is both.Â Here's a video of theÂ Grammy Award-winning contemporary music ensembleÂ eighth blackbird rehearsing the piece (to the clicking of a metronome) back in 2008. Just tell me this isn't fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAI6_6s9_8Y The interesting thing about the runaway clarinet is how open the idea is to interpretation in performance. Depending onÂ whatever instructions the composer may have included in the score, the musician could walk, jog, or presumably skip across the stage. He could moveÂ along the front lip of the stage or the very back. He could wear a strange costume or,Â presumably, nothing at all.Â The possibilities are endless. Let your thoughtsÂ run (no pun intended) wild. So when Chamber Music Columbus and eighth blackbird bring Thomas AdÃ¨s' Catch to Columbus' Southern Theatre April 17, you'll hearÂ music with a unique and beautiful vocabulary of sounds and an endless capacity for fun. Welcome to the new Esterhaza.