● Brand new! Available from May 2019 in Estonia, from June on international market. CD “PREMIÈRE RHAPSODIE” − French clarinet music (Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Poulenc, Sancan). Selvadore Rähni − clarinet, Tuuli Rähni − piano
Selvadore Rähni, clarinet
Tuuli Rähni, piano
Brand new! Available from May 2019 in Estonia, from June on international market.
|Camille Saint-Saëns||Clarinet Sonata in E-flat major, Op 167|
|2||II Allegro animato||2:01|
|4||IV Molto allegro||5:15|
|5||Claude Debussy||Prèmiere Rhapsodie||8:08|
|Francis Poulenc||Clarinet Sonata|
|6||I Allegro tristamente||5:06|
|8||III Allegro con fuoco||3:33|
Camille Saint-Saëns’ most durable contributions to the chamber literature have been his sonatas: two for violin and piano, two for cello and piano, and one each for oboe, clarinet and bassoon, each with piano accompaniment. It was during the last year of his life that Saint-Saëns conceived the idea of writing a sonata for each of the woodwind instruments, thus enhancing their repertoire and providing three monumental works for the sonata literature. Starting with Oboe Sonata in D major op 166, dedicated to Louis Bas, an extraordinary oboe virtuoso, he continued with the Clarinet Sonata in E-flat major, op 167 (1921), dedicated to Auguste Perier, a fine player of astonishing technique, and lastly, with the Bassoon Sonata in G major, op 168, written for Léon Letellier, the first bassoon of the Opéra and the Société des Concerts. Saint-Saëns had intended also to compose sonatas for flute and for cor anglais but he died before he was able to complete the project. In each sonata the piano is skilfully integrated with the wind instrument. The distinctive timbre and versatility of each instrument are expertly displayed. The spare, evocative, classical lines, haunting melodies, and superb formal structures underline these beacons of the neoclassical movement. Though the works were not performed during his lifetime, Saint-Saëns did have the satisfaction of knowing that the sonatas were approved by their dedicatees. Their importance in the woodwind repertoire cannot be exaggerated.
Première Rhapsodie (First Rhapsody) by Claude Debussy is a piece for accompanied solo clarinet. Composed between December 1909 and January 1910, it was dedicated to the French clarinet professor Prosper Mimart.
In 1909, Gabriel Fauré, Director of the Paris Conservatoire, named Debussy to its board of directors (le Conseil Supérieur). One of Debussy’s first duties was to supply two works for the next year’s clarinet examinations. Première Rhapsodie was first performed as part of the examinations on July 14th, 1910. The original composition was for clarinet and piano; Debussy published his own orchestration of the accompaniment in 1911, after the official premiere with Mimart.
As the title implies, the Première Rhapsodie is a free form piece. In a whirlwind seven plus minutes, Debussy poses immense challenges on the performer. The difficulties include a number of significant technical obstacles, tests of endurance, breath control, and subtleties of tone, intonation, and nuance.
The title “Première” implies that perhaps Debussy may have considered the possibility of a second Rhapsody, but, unfortunately, this never materialized.
Sonate pour clarinette et piano (Clarinet Sonata), for clarinet in B-flat and piano by Francis Poulenc dates from 1962 and is one of the last pieces he completed. It is dedicated to the memory of an old friend, the Swiss composer Arthur Honegger, who like Poulenc had belonged to the group Les Six.
The structure of three-movement sonata differs somewhat from the fast-slow-fast pattern of a traditional sonata in that the first movement is itself split into three sections in the pattern fast-slow-fast. It bears the somewhat paradoxical subtitle Allegro tristamente: accordingly, the piece is always in motion, but proceeds with a sense of grieving.
The second movement, Romanza, is both clearer in its melodic makeup and more cathartic, perhaps, in its emotional expression. The clarinet melody is simple and somber throughout, but is elaborately embroidered in a few places, as if losing composure. Two particularly poignant examples are the sixty-fourth note runs near the beginning, and the trembling half-step figure that appears at the beginning and end.
The third movement, Allegro con fuoco, energetically combines various nimble, articulate, and rhapsodic themes, bookended by a delightfully clownish tune − a mixture of serious and silly that well represents Poulenc’s oeuvre as a whole.
The famous clarinetist Benny Goodman, who commissioned the piece, was intended to premiere it with the composer accompanying. Poulenc died suddenly of a heart attack on January 30th, 1963 before it was published, and an editor was employed to ascertain the identity of some notes, as well as provide missing dynamics and articulations. The première was given at Carnegie Hall by Benny Goodman and Leonard Bernstein on April 10th, 1963. Harold C. Schonberg, music critic of The New York Times had this to say: “Poulenc was not a ‘big’ composer, for his emotional range was too restricted. But what he did, he did perfectly, and his music shows remarkable finish, style and refinement…”
French pianist and composer Pierre Sancan (1916−2008) was, along with Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux, a major figure among French musicians in the mid-20th century transition between modern and contemporary eras, but outside France his name is almost unknown. Born in Mazamet in the South of France, Sancan began his musical studies in Morocco and Toulouse before entering the Paris Conservatoire, where he took conducting with Charles Münch and Roger Désormière, piano with Yves Nat, and composition with Henri Büsser. In 1943, Sancan won the Conservatoire’s Prix de Rome with his cantata La Légende de Icare, but did not assume a regular teaching post there until 1956 when his former master Yves Nat retired. Sancan held this job until his own retirement in 1985; although he lived to be 92, his later years were compromised by the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
As a pianist, Sancan was most prominently seen in his role as accompanist to the great cellist André Navarra; his recordings of Ravel’s two piano concertos with conductor Pierre Dervaux and Mozart four-hand concertos with Pommier were highly praised upon their first release in the 1960s, but have not returned to the active catalogue. As a piano teacher, Sancan helped train such luminaries as Michel Béroff, Abdel Rahman El Bacha, Émile Naoumoff, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Daniel Varsano, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, and Jean-Philippe Collard, who has recorded Sancan’s Piano Concerto. Although his Sonatina for flute and piano (1946) has been a popular staple for flute players since its publication, little else of Sancan’s output is well known. His Sonatine pour clarinette et piano (Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano) is one of those undiscovered compositions. Written in 1963 for competition of the Paris Conservatoire, it is technically challenging and allows interprete to show virtuosity. Fast and vigurous passages are alternated by more lyrical and melodical middle part. Sancan also composed a Violin Concerto, at least three ballets, a Symphony for Strings (1961) and an opera, Ondine (1962). Some of his shorter piano pieces, such as Boîte à musique and a Toccata, have caught on as specialty encores; in his music, Sancan sought strategies to reconcile expanded contemporary performance techniques with the harmonic language of Debussy, a composer of whom Sancan was an expert interpreter.
Selvadore Rähni is one of the most famous Estonian clarinetists in the world. Active as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral player, he is well-known in Japan, where he served as the principal clarinetist of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra from 1997. He hold that position until 2005 and recorded as principal clarinet with KSO for the National TV and Radio of Japan as well as record company Arte Nova.
While in Japan, Selvadore got great recognition for his clarinet sound and music. One of the KSO principal conductor, Uwe Mund had this to say: “I immediately found his playing to appreciate. The artist distinguishes himself through highest qualified musicality, he is for sure the most outstanding wind soloist of this qualified orchestra. What’s more, the highly intelligent, however, always natural and graceful phrasing art enters to the beauty and sound capacity of his tone, that is the same craving and appreciated by all of his colleagues and conductors, whom I know and who performed with him.”
His most significant solo performances in Japan include Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto at the famous Osaka Symphony Hall and Debussy’s Rhapsody at the Kyoto Concert Hall.
As guest principal clarinet Selvadore has played with Württemberg, Pforzheim, Polish and Czech chamber orchestras as well as with Osaka and Yamanamy festival orchestras and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. As a member of various orchestras, he has performed all over Europe and Japan.
As a soloist, Selvadore at the age of 16 had a debut with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in Tallinn and other major cities in Estonia, and also in Moscow. As a chamber musician, Rähni have had musical collaborations with the Leipzig String Quartet, and with cellists David Geringas and Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, pianists Michie Koyama, Petras Geniusas, Albert Atenelle, Tuuli Rähni, Kalle Randalu and others. Selvadore has been invited to perform at many festivals including David Oistrakh Festival, Glasperlenspiel, Yamanami Music Festival, Usedom Music Festival, etc.
Selvadore has also a brilliant educational backround. From 1983 to 1986, Rähni studied clarinet with Aleksander Rjabov in Tallinn Georg Ots Music School and continued with Rein Karin and Vahur Vurm in Tallinn State Conservatory from 1986 to 1991, having meanwhile studies at the Estonian Humanitarian Institute (1990−1991). From 1991 to 1997, he studied at the University of Music Karlsruhe with Prof Wolfgang Meyer, where he completed his postgraduate and doctoral studies, graduating with honors in 2001. In 1996, he assisted Prof Meyer at the University of Music Karlsruhe. He also improved his skills further through additional studies under the guidance of Prof Alain Damiens in Paris from 1993 to 1997. Selvadore Rähni has given clarinet master courses in Japan, Spain, Estonia, and Germany. As a composer, he has released the piano album Snapshots from My Life.
Currently Selvadore Rähni lives in Iceland.
Pianist Tuuli Rähni was born in Tallinn, Estonia. She began her musical studies at the age of three. From 1986 to 1991, she studied at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre under the guidance of Professor Peep Lassmann, and she graduated cum laude. During her studies at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, she also worked there as a piano accompanist for singers.
In 1991, she began to further her piano studies as a postgraduate student in Germany at the Musical University of Karlsruhe under Prof Gunther Hauer and Prof Werner Genuit, where she was a student until 1997. She graduated with two Masters Degrees: as solo-pianist and as a piano-chamber musician. Tuuli won scholarship awards from Germany, Sweden, and Estonia.
After graduation with honors in 1997, she moved with her husband, the clarinetist Selvadore Rähni, to Kyoto, Japan, where she lived until 2005. There, as a piano teacher in high demand, Tuuli taught at the Kyoto Conservatory of Music. Valued as a soloist and ensemble partner, she has performed in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, the former Yugoslavia, Estonia, Spain, Ireland, Iceland, and Japan. She has recorded for German and Estonian Radio and for Estonian TV. Tuuli has performed chamber music with her husband Selvadore Rähni for over 30 years. Currently, Tuuli lives and works with her family in Iceland.
Recorded in 2018 at Historischer Reitstadel, Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Germany
Recorded, edited and mastered by Markus Heiland, Tritonus Musikproduktion, Germany
Piano tuned by Leo Niedermeyer
Photos by Ágúst G. Atlason
Paintings − Liis Koger
Design and layout − Mart Kivisild
Liner notes − Igor Garšnek
Booklet editors − Meeta Morozov, Tiina Jokinen
Producer − Peeter Vähi
Special thanks: Tónlistarskóli Ísafjarðar, Dagný Arnalds, Monica Schreiter and Dr Christoph Schreiter
℗ Selvadore Rähni
© Estonian Record Productions (Tallinn)