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Work

Camille Saint-Saëns

Camille Saint-Saëns Composer

Clarinet Sonata in Eb, Op.167

Performances: 16
Tracks: 61
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Musicology:
  • Clarinet Sonata in Eb, Op.167
    Key: Eb
    Year: 1921
    Genre: Chamber Sonata
    Pr. Instrument: Clarinet
    • 1.Allegretto
    • 2.Allegro animato
    • 3.Lento
    • 4.Molto allegro
Although he remained a very active composer throughout his very long life, even the biggest fan of Camille Saint-Saëns will admit (as Saint-Saëns himself sometimes admitted) that by the 1920s—nearly 70 years after his rise to fame—he was something of a dry well. Still, some of the pieces he composed during the last years of his life have real value; perhaps it is hard to take a work like the choral piece Hail California (1915) seriously, but the three woodwind sonatas of 1921, one of which is the Sonata for clarinet and piano in E flat major, Op. 167, are cherished by many performers.

Saint-Saëns' Clarinet Sonata has four movements, and thus might be said to reach back past the Romantic sonata tradition, with its normal three-movement vessel, to the Classical tradition that Saint-Saëns loved so dearly. The opening melodic strains of the Allegretto first movement float upon a sea of utterly calm eighth note waves in the piano (bobbing up and down in 12/8 meter); the composer is in no hurry to reveal the secrets of the movement, but there is still passion aplenty as we go along, even if the movement as a whole is not especially long.

A scherzo movement comes next, taking up A flat major, and then Saint-Saëns provides a Lento in the dark key of E flat minor; its steady half notes and, in time, quarter notes, are so persistent in their slow plodding that we almost feel anguish at their inability to break free from the dirge they create. Much happier, though, is the Molto Allegro fourth movement that follows it without pause. Here the clarinetist is given a chance to whirl and spin to some very florid virtuoso stuff, but at the end it is the quiet tone, and even in fact the very music, of the first movement that the composer uses to close.

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