4.6 Krein: Rhapsody - Clarinet Music from Russia and the Soviet Union 1917-1991
for Clarinet and Piano (1941/48)
Grigory Krein (Григорий Абрамович Крейн, 1879, Nizhny Novgorod–1955,
Komarovo) combines elements of Jewish traditional music and French Impressionism in the Rhapsody for clarinet (in B-flat) and piano (1941/48) , just as he does in his Quartet (see7.5). The title Rhapsody, the playful, virtuoso passages in the clarinet part, and the impressionistic harmonies in the piano part, awaken on first sight associations with Claude Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsody. The melodic intonation of Krein’s composition, however, is fundamentally different from Debussy’s music. Krein composed Rhapsody in 1941 and revised a second version in 1948, preparing Rhapsody for publication, but the work remained unpublished.
Rhapsody is a composition in one movement with a duration of approximately 11 minutes. The Rhapsody can be subdivided into the following sections:
1. Allegro ma non troppo
2. Moderato con moto (mm. 200ff.)
3. Allegro animato (mm. 263ff.)
The Rhapsody opens with a short Clarinet Cadenza which sets the tone in the style of Jewish folk music by using a recognizable mode with augmented seconds (Video ex.4.6.1: Cadenza). The atmosphere changes when the clarinet embarks on a playful melody on top of a light, syncopated piano accompaniment in a steady 2/4 measure (Allegro ma non troppo, mm. 17 ff.). The melody is rather neutral in tone and plays around an a-minor chord in a repeated sixteenth notes movement. This melody reappears in different ways throughout the work, such as through variation and transposition.
Video ex.4.5.1: Cadenza (Krein, Rhapsody, mm.1-9)
Even the second clarinet theme is cheerful in character, played softly and ornamented with mordents (Video ex.4.6.2: Cheerful tune). The piano continues in a more vivid and dramatic tone with a distinct staccato melody in the bass line. This bass line is reminiscent of the Scherzando staccato melody in Debussy´s Première Rhapsody, due to the same steady eighth note rhythm, the staccato articulation and a very similar interval structure.
Video ex.4.5.2: Cheerful tune (Krein, Rhapsody, mm.60-90)
In the middle section of Rhapsody, Moderato con moto, the clarinet plays a melancholic melody, accompanied by broken chord triplets in the piano. As in the beginning, this passage features folkloristic elements, yet in a less obvious manner than in the introduction: most recognizable is the minor mode with the augmented seconds (Video ex.4.6.3: Nostalgia).
The last section, Allegro animato, brings back the first clarinet melody, again rambling around the chord, now in different variations. Toward the end of Rhapsody, another similarity to Debussy's Prèmiere Rhapsodie comes up: a lengthy acceleration towards the end in both parts, with the impression of a virtuoso, grande finale. The undertone in Krein's Rhapsody, however, is more melancholic and not as light-footed as in Debussy's composition. At times, Rhapsody is technically challenging for the clarinetist due to the transposition of the first sixteenth-movement melody: when playing the melody in g sharp minor for the clarinet (in B-flat), it is constantly moving around the register change of the throat tones and the next register, resulting in challenges to maintain equality in sound quality and the effortless character. Krein did not use the A-clarinet in any of his works, but if Rhapsody was composed for clarinet in A, these passages work much better in a technically simpler A minor key. However, the nostalgic melody in the middle part would then be in a less sonorous key, so the A clarinet is not really an option for the entire work, but perhaps it may work for changing within the piece.
Rhapsody could form an attractive piece within the clarinet repertoire if it was made available for the performers through a thoroughly edited sheet music publication. Jasha Nemtsov has collected the work of Grigory Krein, including Rhapsody and Poème, in his Archive for music from the New Jewish School in Weimar. He recorded selected works, including the Rhapsody, and published widely on this topic.
Video ex.4.5.3: Nostalgia (Krein, Rhapsody, mm.170-224)
Anne Elisabeth Piirainen, clarinet
Kiril Kozlovsky, piano
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2nd doctoral concert "Between Love and Hate"
12.05.2015, Helsinki Music Centre