Aug. 12, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 20

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    American Clarinet includes piece by Chicago composer

    By Laurie Davis
    News Office

    EMI Angel Classics has recently released the compact disc American Clarinet, which features the works of several composers, including Howard Sandroff, Senior Lecturer in Music and Director of the Computer Music Studio at the University.

    Sandroff’s composition, Tephillah for clarinet and computer-controlled electronics, was performed by Alain Damiens and the Ensemble Intercontemporain. The disc also features works by American composers John Adams, Elliott Carter and Steve Reich. “I am very honored to be included with such distinguished composers,” said Sandroff, who wrote Tephillah in 1990.

    Tephillah, which means “prayer” in Hebrew, also was recorded by Chicago Symphony Orchestra clarinetist John Bruce Yeh and released last year by Koch International Classics. At Yeh’s request, the Yamaha Corporation of America commissioned the piece in 1990.

    The sleeve notes in American Clarinet describe Tephillah as loosely based on Hebrew liturgical chant, owing its inspiration to the style and character of Eastern European Jews at prayer. The work is described as an abstraction of the seemingly disordered and spontaneous manner in which a service is conducted by Orthodox Jewish men of the Ashkenazic tradition.

    “The construction and material of Tephillah is consistent with my aesthetic goal of using static sound objects that, rather than develop, are varied by their continually changing association with other sound objects,” said Sandroff.

    Although Sandroff became interested in electronic and computer music in the mid-70s and considers it an important component of his work, he also has written string quartets, solo piano compositions, orchestral works, art songs and scores for theatre, dance and film. “About half of my work is created for conventional musical forces,” he said.

    Tephillah was shared with Damiens when Pierre Boulez brought it to his attention in 1992. “Damiens performed the work with the Ensemble Intercontemporain in 1996 for the dedication ceremonies of the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique at the Georges Pompedou Center in Paris, France, said Sandroff. ”I was there for the two performances and had the pleasure of working with Damiens and the IRCAM musical programmers who realized the electronics.

    “Alain Damiens is an astounding musician,” said Sandroff. “His realization and interpretation of my work is fresh and innovative.” Damiens will be in Chicago in November for an Orchestra Hall performance with Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He has expressed interest in performing Tephillah and other works from the CD here on campus, Sandroff said.

    Other compositions by Sandroff, which also have been recorded and released on compact disc this year, include LaJoie for clarinet trio, which was performed by the Chicago Clarinet Trio and released on Helicon Records, and Eulogy for solo alto saxophone, which was released by Paul Bro on America’s Millennium Tribute to Adolphe Sax on Arizona University Recordings.

    Recently, Sandroff wrote Chant des Femmes for flute and electronic sounds, which was recorded by flutist Mary Stolper for an upcoming release from the Electronic Music Foundation. Sandroff currently is working on an instrumental septet for the Chicago Pro Musica that is scheduled to premiere in March at a concert in Orchestra Hall featuring Sandroff’s chamber music and celebrating his 50th birthday.