for Clarinet and Piano (ca. 1947)




About the life and work of Samuil Senderey (Самуил Шмуэль Залманович Сендерей; 1905, Mogilev, Belarus–1967, Moscow), not much is known. His compositional output nevertheless includes a considerable number of symphonic works, chamber music, vocal compositions and works in lighter genres. Senderey studied piano and composition at the Moscow conservatory with Reinhold Glière, Genrikh Litinsky and Mikhail Gnessin. Senderey composed Three Pieces for clarinet (in B-flat) and piano around 1947 and the composition was soon published in Moscow (Senderey 1948). In Three Pieces, Senderey incorporates a variety of elements of traditional Jewish music. It is remarkable that the work was published in the same year that Stalin started his campaign against the so-called “rootless cosmopolitans”, which targeted Jews. The work’s title, Three Pieces, is neutral and makes no mention of any Jewish content, which may have aided in the publication of the composition despite the highly censored environment. Senderey composed various other pieces for the clarinet with piano and for woodwind quintet.[1] Most of these works are based on folk music themes, such as Russian, Spanish, Jewish, and other folk melodies. Senderey also composed a Concerto for clarinet and symphony orchestra before 1947, which unfortunately remained unpublished. This highly interesting concerto shows clear musical parallels to the Three Pieces, especially in the use of Jewish melodies.

The Three Pieces have a total duration of approximately 25 minutes: 
1.    Larghetto – Allegretto
2.    Andante espressivo
3.    Allegro
Each of the pieces forms a self-contained entity and could be performed separately, though the Three Pieces also show certain thematic connections with each other and thus form a whole cycle.

[1] Senderey´s material is kept in the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture, Moscow (GTsMMK).

Video ex.4.8.1: Cheerful theme (Senderey, Three Pieces, mvt. 1, mm. 7-34)


Throughout the entire composition, recognizable Jewish folk music idioms are used. Harmonic minor modes dominate this work, especially the altered Phrygian mode, also called Freygish-scale, with its distinct half step and augmented second intervals. All three pieces embrace the pathos of quickly changing moods, between bright happiness and deep grief. 

The first movement, Larghetto – Allegretto, features a dance-like and syncopated,
yet stately 2/4 rhythm. Grace notes and trills ornament the cheerful, optimistic melody both in the clarinet and the piano parts (Video ex.4.8.1: Cheerful theme). At the end of the first piece, the clarinet recalls the musical material of the movement in a virtuoso and elaborate cadenza. The clarinet turns to playing in a declamatory manner, as if speaking, posing questions or reciting (Video ex.4.8.2: Cadenza).

Video ex.4.8.2: Cadenza (Senderey, Three Pieces, mvt. 1, mm. 162-175)


The second piece, Andante espressivo, presents a longing melody in a serene, yet majestic 3/4 rhythm. The manner of clarinet playing is dominated by long legato lines which require high precision in breath control. The altered minor mode and distinct ornamentations also add a folkloristic colour to this movement.


Video ex.4.8.3: Melancholy (Senderey, Three Pieces, mvt. 2, mm. 9-24)


In the joyful last movement, Allegro, nimble triplet ornamentations intertwine around the melody, culminating in an extensive clarinet cadenza and a grandiose final. Two melodies in traditional Jewish style stand out in this movement. It is not clear whether Senderey composed the melodies himself, imitating the folkloristic style, or whether he used original, existing folk melodies. 


Video ex.4.8.4: Jubilating (Senderey, Three Pieces, mvt. 3, mm. 20-33)


One traditional-style melody appears with the characteristic upbeat, in a triumphant tone (Video ex.4.8.4: Jubilating). In the second striking melody, the Freygish-mode prevails with the recognizable altered second (Video ex.4.8.5: Traditional-style melody).


Video ex.4.8.5: Traditional-style melody (Senderey, Three Pieces, mvt. 3, mm.52-67)



Anne Elisabeth Piirainen, clarinet 

Kirill Kozlovski, piano  

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5th doctoral concert "Beyond Borders" 

31.05.2018 Helsinki Music Centre