Rhapsody for clarinet and chamber orchestra was composed in 1997 for Doris Hall-Gulati. It is cast in a single, rhapsodic movement tied together by several key motives punctuated by cadenzas by the soloist. The work alternates among four basic tempi and moods and represents a journey in which the soloist is “transformed” by the time the opening mood returns at the end of the piece. The opening (larghetto, tranquillo),portrays the soloist in a solitary mood surrounded by sparse orchestration and introspective figuration. The mood changes to a more capricious one and the surroundings become more dense as the clarinet explores “slap tongued” percussive moments, and the tempo begins a long accelerando, which is eventually halted by a new mood and texture (cantabile ed amabile; una memoria) in which the soloist is invited to display lyricism underscored by the strings and echoed by various winds. This cantabile mood increases in intensity and tempo, returning to the scherzo-like mood that preceded it. A transition leads to the fourth mood and tempo (allegro giocoso), dance-like music, displaying driving rhythms and hints of exoticism. The shifting meters of this section are interrupted by a sudden return of the earlier cantabile. However, this time, the soloist is accompanied by the two clarinets in the orchestra and xylophone and strings. The accelerando ends this time with a bravura solo cadenza, which leads, in turn, to a reprise of the allegro giocoso. The dance is driven forward by the soloist into a manic presto, ending suddenly fortissimo. The soloist continues, however, with another unaccompanied utterance bringing back the solitary music of the beginning. The work ends with a brief return to the larghetto, tranquillo mood of the very opening, scored even more sparsely with ethereal string harmonies and accompanying woodwind duets in the orchestra.

Rhapsody has been recorded by Doris Hall-Gulati with the New York Chamber Symphony, conducted by Gerard Schwarz, for the MMC label.

Selected Performances of Rhapsody

Premiere: April 27, 1997, Doris Hall-Gulati, clarinet, with Gerard Schwarz conducting the New York Chamber Symphony, Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC

Performance: November 7, 2010, Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra was performed by Doris Hall-Gulati, clarinetist, at George Mason University Performing Arts Center, Fairfax, VA., American Youth Philharmonic, Daniel Spalding, conductor.

Review of Rhapsody

Allan Kozinn, New York Times:

“...only a few of the works made a lasting impression, on first hearing. The most striking was John Carbon’s Rhapsody for clarinet and chamber orchestra, in which a demandingly agile clarinet line, played with both virtuosity and nuance by Doris Hall-Gulati, wove its way through a variegated orchestral fabric. Except for a slow, dark-hued coda, the orchestral writing was brisk and vital, and rich in the coloristic effects of the sort that create depth rather than artificial glitter.

.....an essentially Neoromantic style with a modernist tinge...”

© John Carbon 2015