7.4 Frid: Sonata No.3 - Clarinet Music from Russia and the Soviet Union 1917-1991
SONATA No.3 op.75
for Clarinet and Piano (1982)
Grigory Frid (Григорий Самуилович Фрид; 1915, Petrograd–2012, Moscow) was born into a Jewish family of musicians, escaped from the Russian Revolution to Siberia and later came to study in Moscow. The talented young student was admitted to one of the main composition teachers at the Tchaikovsky-conservatory, Vissarion Shebalin, who later was also teacher of Edison Denisov. The best-known work of Frid is the mono-opera Diary of Anne Frank (1969). Despite Frid´s Jewish roots, we cannot find any elements of or allusions to Jewish traditional music in his clarinet compositions. In the 1970s, over 20 years after finishing the conservatory, Frid changed his composition style radically from tradition-oriented to more experimental. He was co-founder and active member of the “Moscow Youth Musical Club” (Moskovsky klub molodyozhy; Schmelz 2009, 203). In this club, Frid and his guests held lectures and discussion rounds on contemporary music. Young composers had a platform to present their artistic work there and numerous first performances were played there.
Frid composed the Clarinet Sonata No. 3 op.75 for clarinet (in B-flat) and piano in 1982. Other clarinet pieces by Frid include the Clarinet Sonata No. 1 op.53 (1966), Clarinet Sonata No. 2 op.62/2 (1971), Three pieces op.17 for clarinet and piano and a Trio-Sonata for three clarinets. Sonata No. 3 op.75 is a compelling composition with a deep emotional content and rich expression. Frid uses moderately modern composing techniques, finding a very personal musical language, even though influences of Shostakovich cannot be denied.
The Sonata consists of two movements with a total duration of approximately 14 minutes:
2. Allegro – Moderato assai
Video ex.7.4.1: Darkness (Frid, Sonata no. 3, mvt. 1, mm. 1-21)
The opening theme of the Sonata, Adagio, evokes a calm and somber atmosphere. Both clarinet and piano play in the lowest registers, creating dark, warm and slightly mysterious impressions.(Video ex.7.4.1: Darkness). The piano bass holds long octave notes, like a pedal point. Chromatic motivic passages are accompanied by frequent changes between major and minor chords. At times, the harmonies evoke even Mahlerian undertones. Special attention in the clarinet part goes to legatissimo playing throughout the movement. The beginning theme of the Adagio returns at the very end, like a frame, but this time with aleatoric repetitions in the piano part, as if giving light sparkles in the darkness (Video ex.7.4.2: Light Sparkles).
Video ex.7.4.2: Light Sparkles (Frid, Sonata no. 3, mvt. 1, mm. 45-50)
The second movement, Allegro, features a variety of very different musical ideas. The bar measure, 6/8 proposes a dance-like Scherzo, but the underlying tone is rather dramatic. This especially concerns the way Frid writes the clarinet part: some passages from this movement rare reminiscent of a Shostakovich symphony, for example, Symphony No 9, Scherzo, but the melody posed in reverse order (Video ex.7.4.3: Scherzo). On first sight it gives a jolly impression, but soon it turns tragic, like a second layer beneath the surface.
Video ex.7.4.3: Scherzo (Frid, Sonata no. 3, mvt.2, mm. 35-53)
Another example of a second layer is one passage where the piano plays a stylized jazzy “Walking Bass” with the clarinet playing a light melody on top (Video ex.10.4.4: Jazz Club). When keeping in mind that neither allusions to Mahler in the first movement, nor allusion to Jazz in the second movement were politically acceptable according to Soviet cultural doctrine, Frid´s Sonata appears rather risky. The ending of the Sonata, Moderato assai, is almost a movement in itself, where the themes from the first movement return. Sonata No. 3 op.75 is an excellent composition with great musical challenges to both performers and deserves a place in the general clarinet repertoire.
Video ex.7.4.4: Jazz Club (Frid, Sonata no. 3, mvt. 1, mm. 197-207)
Anne Elisabeth Piirainen, clarinet
Kiril Kozlovsky, piano
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2nd doctoral concert "Between Love and Hate"
12.05.2015, Helsinki Music Centre