Todd Palmer, 63, of New York City, one of America’s premier clarinetists, will perform Copland’s 1948 Clarinet Concerto as a guest soloist with the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra on January 13 and 14. (Submitted photo/Alexis Perez)
The clarinet has a smooth, almost hollow sound, a cool, brilliant sound, a more pronounced dynamic range than other woodwind instruments, and a haunting timbre in the lowest octaves.
When we think of the clarinet and its unique sound, we think of Gershwin’s recording of “Rhapsody in Blue,” or Benny Goodman’s composition, for which composer Aaron Copland commissioned a special clarinet concerto. You might think of it. Goodman and the NBC Orchestra premiered it in 1950.
The approximately 17-minute concerto will be part of the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra’s program, and will be performed by leading clarinetist Todd Palmer at the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra’s concerts at the Empress Theater on January 13th and 14th. will be featured as a guest soloist.
A two-movement piece, the first movement features a slightly jazzy, melancholy sound rooted in Brazilian folk music, with dramatic leaps from the clarinet and sweet rhapsodic tones accompanied by strings and harp. is. The cadenza acts as a bridge between the first and second movements, the latter characterized by a lively rhythm suited to Goodman’s swing technique and the introduction of a short piano play. The music becomes almost dance-like before it ends, ending on a wailing note, with Palmer playing on the clarinet, emphasizing the glissando, or (in jazz) “smear.”
“I’ve played this piece at least a dozen times,” Palmer, 63, said of the concerto in an interview Sunday at his Upper West Side mansion in New York City. “This is definitely one of the most popular clarinet concertos.”
The Hagerstown, Maryland, native recalled that he first performed the song in Washington, D.C., “on the eve of its Kennedy Center debut the next afternoon,” winning an audition for the Young Concert Artists Organization.
Since then, a three-time Grammy nominee who has lived in New York City all of his adult life, Palmer has worked around the world as a soloist, recitalist, chamber music collaborator, educator, arranger, and presenter of musical performances. are doing.
As a soloist, he has performed with symphonies and chamber orchestras, with ensembles from Houston and Atlanta to Cincinnati and Montreal, and appeared at Carnegie Hall and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He has collaborated with notable artists and groups, including the St. Lawrence and Pacifica string quartets and sopranos Kathleen Battle, Renee Fleming, and Dawn Upshaw.
Palmer championed and recorded Osvald Golijov’s klezmer clarinet quintet, “The Dreams and Prayers of Blind Isaac,” and Ricky Gordon’s theatrical production, “Orpheus and Euridice,” performed by Great Performers at Lincoln Center. was commissioned. She also premiered David Bruce’s Gumboot at Carnegie Hall and appeared as a soloist in Robert La Page’s The Nightingale and Other Fables at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
He gave the world premiere of “Crosswalk,” a new work for clarinet and dance created especially for him by famous choreographer Mark Morris. In addition to Golikhov, he has also worked with composers such as Thomas Adès, Mason Bates, and Ned Rorem.
It may come as a surprise to some, but Palmer is a classically trained musician who still pays his rent with his Broadway gigs. He is currently part of the pit orchestra for a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. His other Broadway credits include Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific and The King and I, Schoenberg’s Les Misérables, Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, and Lerner and Loewe’s My・Contains a revival of “The Fair Lady.”
Theater work, he says, is “like a slice of bread and a few slices of butter,” and it has been a part of his life on and off for the past 15 years. His “Sweeney Todd” performance begins in March and continues through May of this year.
“I like being in the pit with the conductor,” Palmer said, adding, “It’s a very positive environment.”
He called Morris’ choreographer a “true artist” and praised his work “Crosswalk,” with which they toured the world for two years.
Palmer managed to attend the Grammy Awards, as Golikhov’s Klezmer Clarinet Quintet was nominated for two honors. He called the composer a “long-time friend.”
For Gordon’s “Orpheus and Euridice,” more than 20 years ago, he approached the composer to write a piece specifically for clarinet. Palmer originally intended for this production to ultimately be shorter than his one-hour production.
“I was really speechless,” he recalls. “Inspiration struck him in the middle of the night. What’s really amazing is that it sat on a shelf for 10 years. Few soprano players pay attention to this. Finally, he was close to being a proper soprano. Ta.”
“It was a huge production,” Palmer said of the 2005 theatrical production. “Dance companies were involved,” and when it opened at Lincoln Center, it won an Obie Award, an off-Broadway honor comparable to a Tony Award for a Broadway show.
“Then other people got interested in it and it went to Long Beach and was staged around the pool,” he said. “It was so popular that it was performed in Chicago, where he performed twice.”
Palmer does what he loves and constantly reminds himself of how blessed he is to have music in his life.
“I had no intention of doing anything else,” he said. “I have been blown away by one musical act after another. It is a source of great joy for me.”
As part of the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra’s 2023-2024 Gershwin Series, “Gershwin! “Jazz Genius”, his second of his three season concerts led by conductor Mark Taddei is called “An American in Paris”. The production features classic Gershwin work, with its striking street noises and big-city atmosphere, which inspired the 1951 film of the same name.
In the second half of the concert, the audience will hear Georges Bizet’s Symphony in C major, written in 1855 at the age of 17. This symphony is sonically influenced by Gounod, ending with a fiery thud of brightly colored notes.
The third concert in the symphony series, “Porgy and Bess,” is scheduled for April 20 and 21, and is the 1959 concert for legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald and jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Soprano Tiffany Austin will perform Gershwin’s masterpiece written and arranged by Russell Garcia. This program will be performed as a semi-staged production with members of Verismo His Opera.
“This will undoubtedly be one of the most important and unusual musical events in the Bay Area this season,” symphony spokesman Tim Zumwalt said in a statement prepared last year.
Zumwalt added that a pre-concert talk, “Meet the Music,” will take place one hour before each orchestra’s performance and will feature conversations between Taddei and guest artists and provide insight into the program.
The Vallejo Symphony Orchestra can be heard on Radio KZCT-FM 89.5, and the remaining concert will be broadcast on January 26 at 10:30 a.m. and May 3 at 10:30 a.m.
In addition, guest artists will appear in live interviews, and their program times will be posted on Facebook/VallejoSymphony.
if you go
what: vallejo symphony orchestra
when: January 13th at 8pm and January 14th at 3pm
where: Empress Theater, 330 Virginia St., Vallejo
ticket: $50 to $80. Discount group tickets available for 10 or more people
phone: (707) 643-4441