8.6 Podgaits: Sonata op.83 - Clarinet Music from Russia and the Soviet Union 1917-1991
"UNTIL THE LAST BREATH"
for Clarinet Solo (1990 / 2017)
Efrem Podgaits (Ефрем Иосифович Подгайц, b. 1949, Vinnytsia, Ukraine) studied composition at the Moscow Conservatory with Nikolai Sidelnikov and Yury Butsko and is currently professor of composition at the Ippolitov-Ivanov Music Institute in Moscow. His vast compositional output includes stage works, symphonic, solo and chamber works.  His clarinet compositions include a Concerto (2 clarinets and symphony orchestra, 2014), Sarafan for Michel op.112 (Clarinet and chamber orchestra, 1994) and chamber music works in various instrumentations.
The Sonata op.83 – Until the Last Breath (До Последного Вздоха) for clarinet solo (in B-flat) is a flamboyant and virtuoso piece, at the same time demanding for the performer and amusing for the listener. Podgaits composed the Sonata op.83 in 1990. In 2017 Podgaits made a second version on my request. The revised version incorporates some of my clarinetistic and performance aspects proposals for this composition. The composition has not been not published.
Sonata op.83 is a one-movement work. The duration of the second version is 6 to 7 minutes, and the first version approximately 10 minutes. The Sonata is subdivided into three parts:
1. Lento, rubato
2. Presto (mm. 27ff.)
3. Lento (mm.308ff.)
The title and form can be seen as a reference to the classical sonata form and also in the way the thematic material is used, appearing repeatedly throughout the composition in varied ways. The piece is full of brilliance and challenging to play. The opening section introduces a calm and longing melody (Video ex.8.6.1: Opening). Fast interventions, played forte and staccato, form an abrupt contrast. These elements form the basis for the entire work, playfully built around diverse and quickly changing moments.
Video ex.8.6.1: Opening (Podgaits, Sonata op. 83, mm. 1-9)
The character of the middle part, Presto, is light-footed and rhythmically accentuated, with a nod to entertainment music. The tension constantly builds, with faster and faster tempo and climbing to higher registers, which creates a breath-taking feeling. The main theme of this part features a fast, rhythmically-punctuated and staccato melody in changing bar measures. The character is jolly, playing around with the melodic material (Video ex.8.6.2: Joker). This melody returns frequently in diverse fashions: ornamented with trills, rhythmically varied, with frullato and glissando. The theme from the opening passage returns in a tremolo variation and in the version with fast triplets, ascending to the altissimo register. Yet, the melody fragments always remain recognizable, and the musical language is fairly traditional.
Video ex.8.6.2: Joker (Podgaits, Sonata op. 83, mm. 27-41)
In the final section, Coda, a concise recapitulation of themes and musical ideas takes place. At the very end of the piece, like a far reminiscence of the beginning, the clarinet plays the longing melody from the opening. But this time, the melody appears with a broken sound, as if all energy has come to an end and sounds exhausted. The work ends with a long air sound, symbolic for the subtitle of the work: Until the last Breath (Video ex.8.6.3: Breath). The symbolic meaning of death comes easily to mind in that context, but the rather frolicky music of this Sonata is far from serious-minded content. Contemporary playing techniques appear only scarcely in the Sonata, such as a few multiphonics in the Coda. Sonata op.83 uses the clarinet idiomatically and serves well for any clarinetist looking for technical and endurance challenges in a pleasurable musical environment. Sonata op.83 was written by a skilled composer and can serve as an example of a conventional-style and entertaining clarinet composition from the former Soviet Union.
Video ex.8.6.3: Breath (Podgaits, Sonata op. 83, mm. 321-329)
Anne Elisabeth Piirainen, clarinet
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4th doctoral concert "Echoes of the Past"
03.10.2017, Helsinki Music Centre