Music Spotlight: Rhapsody by Willson Osborne

One of the great unaccompanied clarinet solos is Rhapsody by Willson Osborne. The difficulty is rated medium to medium difficult (grade 4-5), and is definitely approachable by a high school player. Osborne keeps the music very interesting and there is plenty of opportunity for expressive and technical playing.

The Rhapsody is very enjoyable to play and listen to. At only 4 1/2 minutes in length, it works well as a recital piece and it is a good audition piece as well. It is written for the B-flat clarinet.

I’m going to talk through the piece in detail, giving some advice on how to approach some of the tricky spots.  If you don’t already own this piece, you will have difficulty following what I am talking about in the analysis. Make sure you have your music handy for full understanding! If you don’t yet own a copy, you can click on the link below and purchase it.

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Rhapsody For Clarinet
Composed by Willson Osborne. For Bb clarinet (unaccompanied). 20th Century. Difficulty: medium to medium-difficult. Clarinet solo single. 4 pages. Duration 4.5 minutes. Edition Peters #EP6006. Published by Edition Peters (PE.P06006).

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Music Spotlight: “Five Bagatelles” by Gerald Finzi

One of my favorite composers is Gerald Finzi. He writes the most beautiful melodies and his phrasing is superb. I find that his music is never boring and that every phrase is a new adventure of sorts. Although Finzi is best known for his vocal music, his output also includes a piece for oboe and string quartet, a violin concerto, a cello concerto, and two works for the clarinet.

With his primary output being vocal and choral music, it seems to make sense that he wrote for the clarinet since the clarinet is the closest instrument to the human voice! Finzi’s experience as a composer for vocals is very apparent in the style of his clarinet compositions. The lines are some of the most lyrical ones in the clarinet repertoire. You may find that the melodies in the slower movements of the Five Bagatelles lend themselves well to singing.

Finzi’s music tends to be thickly scored and complex. He also explores plenty of key signatures and meters. There are no boring moments in his writing and he apparently enjoyed playing with his ideas.

Five Bagatelles is a wonderful work with five contrasting movements:
I. Prelude
II. Romance
III. Carol
IV. Forlana
V. Fughetta

Approximate duration is 14 minutes.

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Five Bagatelles, Op. 23 (Clarinet and Piano)
(Clarinet and Piano). Composed by Gerald Finzi (1901-1956). For Clarinet, Piano (Clarinet). Boosey & Hawkes Chamber Music. Classical. Set of performance parts. 21 pages. Boosey & Hawkes #M060030253. Published by Boosey & Hawkes (HL.48009725).

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