Conclusions - Clarinet Music from Russia and the Soviet Union 1917-1991
This study is based on my long expertise as a professional clarinetist in combination with my affinity for Russian/Soviet music for the past 30 years, since I first went to Moscow to study clarinet playing at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. The years-long process of gathering a database on clarinet works from Russia and the former Soviet Union, analyzing the compositions from a clarinetist´s perspective and performing this repertoire, has given me an exceptionally broad view on this particular aspect of the clarinet repertoire as a whole. Within my reference frame of clarinet music in general, I can reveal peculiarities of this specific repertoire and evaluate their artistic possibilities and significance.
I deliberately chose the format of this thesis, a website, in order to enhance the aspect of performance as research tool in this study. Using live video excerpts from my doctoral concert performances instead of score examples as a part of the entire text, aims at drawing the reader´s attention to the act and significance of performing and clarinet playing in the research context. The thesis format contributes to the development of the field of research publications beyond the medium of solely written text. This format follows present-day tendencies in research media, such as Journal for Artistic Research JAR or Ruukku.
This study shows a breadth, volume and variety of clarinet works from Russia and the Soviet Union which stands in contrast to the limited information on this topic and the small number of works performed nowadays. The enormous number of lesser-known works, however, raises a number of difficulties. It is problematic to overview the repertoire as a whole, to select and to evaluate single works or to line out precise stylistic tendencies within a certain period. The lack of performance practice of the majority of the repertoire presents further challenges to the performer. Another major obstacle is the complicated availability of many works and the poor quality of sheet music in numerous cases, including the lack of separate performing parts.
Regarding the repertoire as a whole, certain musical observations can be made. In the clarinet compositions discussed in this study, certain composers reoccur as influential, such as Mahler, Brahms, Messiaen, Debussy, Hindemith, Berg and Schönberg. References to Shostakovich and Prokofiev are common as well, especially concerning the clarinet in their symphonic repertoires. In many cases, a concrete clarinet composition subsequently served as a source of inspiration for several composers, for example, the Three Pieces by Stravinsky. Denisov became exceptionally influential to Soviet composers writing for the clarinet from the 1970s on.
Concerning the role of the clarinet, one cannot strictly compare the Soviet repertoire to works composed elsewhere at the same time. A certain time shift, sometimes described even as a delay, is undeniable in the first appearance of, for example, extended playing techniques. However, the clarinet repertoire in question developed such specific characteristics that reducing this incomparability to a delay in development would not be justified. When looking at clarinetistic aspects, one remarkable observation is that many compositions do not appear primarily clarinet-centered, in the sense of not highlighting the idiomatic use of the clarinet above musical purposes. For example, the piano parts in many Sonatas are very demanding and highly elaborated.
Looking back on the concert series and my research process, I wish to reflect on my artistic development. I started the project with the main goal of sharing these uncommon works and expanding the information available on this topic. Over time, my personal opinion, musical taste and personal preferences came increasingly to the foreground. The process of discovering a work which was previously unknown to me, tracking down information on it, finding the score, analyzing, rehearsing and finally performing it has made me realize what an active role I had during this research. The entire project is the result of all of the musical and scholarly choices that I made along this journey. If had to pick one personal development, it would be that I feel I have reached a new level of artistic freedom, independence and competence.
Looking towards the future, there are many possibilities of how to continue expanding upon this field. There are several research projects that can grow out of the enormous amount of material and works which still remain unperformed. If I had to choose one, I would like to further investigate the topic of clarinet music from the Stalinist era, especially the work of suppressed composers and those works with Jewish themes. This would include recording the most artistically interesting compositions, as well as editing and publishing high quality editions of the works.
This research contributes to knowledge in the field of Russian/Soviet music and of clarinet music in particular. To clarinetists and other musicians, the database can be a tool to discover such works for performing, which otherwise would not be considered because of the lack of information. The surveys on the selected compositions in Part two give general information on performance aspects, clarinet playing and clarinet music beyond this specific repertoire. Even the manner of approaching uncommon or unknown works can be a source of inspiration to fellow musicians. Even to researchers, the particular point of view of a clarinetist on a composition, from the inside, can be of special interest.
I sincerely hope that this study, including the doctoral concerts, writings and database can initiate a broader interest in the topic of Russian/Soviet clarinet music, and that I have helped to fill the gap on some of the missing information on this topic.