The Classical Legacy of Benny Goodman was a program put together by the clarinetist David Shifrin consisting of six pieces that were either dedicate to, written for, or given as a gift to Benny Goodman. Goodman was the first crossover artist from jazz to classical and for that he is embedded in American music history. Not only did he thrive in both genres but he brought the jazz audience to concert halls with him. Tonight there were a total of six clarinetists, all technically proficient, all with at least a Masters in Performance, yet not all were natural performers. Chad Burrow opened up the program with a lively and polished performance of Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. This piece is a repertory staple, showing the range of technique and artistic phrasing possible on the instrument. Morton Gould’s melancholy and for the most part subdued “Benny’s Gig” was played by two clarinetist with at most proficient abilities as musicians. Their performances dragged and were unconnected to the audience. The string bass player even started on the wrong movement.
The Atria ensemble presented a lively and in-sync interpretation of Bela Bartok’s "Contrasts". Each musician was in-tune with each other throughout the piece, reminding me of the joys of successful chamber music. All I remember from Monton Gould’s "Recovery Music" is the clarinetist repeating the names of movements for an elderly audience member before even playing. Alan Schulman’s "Rendezvous" seemed to be a perfect hybrid of jazz and classical, with its playfulness shown through dynamic playing by the Jasper String Quartet. The energetic and sweet toned clarinetist Paul Won Jin Cho is someone to keep an eye on.
The most mature and simply beautiful piece was saved for last. David Shifrin performed Aaron Coplan’s Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra with full instrumentation. Mr. Shifrin is one of those clarinetists who embodies a certain expressiveness and maturity in his playing that cannot be taught. It is no accident that every clarinetist knows his name. His subtle vibrato and his deep level of communication with the orchestra led to a sublime performance that had the audience captivated. Magic was seen at Carnegie Hall tonight. This is the type of performance that musicians dream about and can only resort to melting in your seat when in the audience. Only time will tell if any of the other clarinetists heard tonight will ripen into the true artist that David Shifrin showed us he still is.