Mannheim and More . . .
The Project. Everything about this project seemed for many to be shrouded in mystery. Why take two artists dedicated to modern music performances and record early clarinet works? Why perform at "Verdi's A" (432Hz) when the norm is to tune much higher? Why use old 1950's analogue recording technologies? Why tune the piano without temperament? Why an obsolete clarinet? Why record in a humid hall without air conditioning in July?
When I (Dennis Dougherty) assisted in the worlds's first international conference on "Genuine Tuning" in 2007, I was indeed skeptical to hear that there was a replacement for Equal Temperament (ET): All Temperaments in fact. ET in particular had been with us for the better part of a century. Had it not proved itself? Was it not to be the "end all" of tuning discussions? Certainly there is a certain uniformity that ET offers us but also a reoccurring frustration and a narrow one-sidedness which it gives our music that fuels apathy on the part of the listening public. Having now studied the tuning research work of internationally seasoned Swiss violinist/violist Maria Renold (1917-2003), I have come to realize that there was indeed room and even a need for circular tunings built on genuine fifths (as is the case with Maria Renold). Circular, in that they work well in all 24 Major and Minor Keys. Her system, used here, is built out of a frustration from the false sounding intervals introduced with ET. She incorporated mature listening as the gauge for measurement: not mathematics. A piano tuned to this system actually sounds better in all keys than ET does in any! After extensive research and testing on thousands of listeners with assistance from experts in fields of instrumental art, physics, electronics and piano technicians, she refined her system to what is, both agreeable to the human ear as untempered while restoring the individual character of each key which was lost by using mathematically calculated semi-tones (ET).
You will now hear the piano tuned much the same way orchestras and choirs do. It is the first CD where the clarinet and piano have been prepared by the same tuning artist to achieve the highest degree of continuity. Each tonal-key and each register of the clarinet is enhanced by advanced preparation. The Selmer Model 9 clarinet was chosen here because of its vintage, expressive sound which has been modified to perform at the historically significant pitch of A-432Hz = C-128Hz = Sun ; as sited to be the correct pitch for modern minds by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). During a lengthy period in history there was much disagreement about the proper pitch and C-128Hz was preferred by major figures such as Mozart and maintained by later influences like Verdi, Debussy and even Hindemith. Note: A-432Hz is three perfect fifths above C-128Hz.
This is the first clarinet recording to explore this phenomenon. Canadian pianist Graham Jackson had already performed a recording of solo Chopin tuned to Renold specifications and Grammy nominated Russian Operatic Bass, Mikhail Svetlov had recorded Pushkin romances (Hartshorn Label). At the first such chamber music recital given in the USA in 2008, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of A-432. Audience members thought my wife's German factory violin was a Strad and the special clarinet modified in Switzerland for this concert struck joyous tears to the eyes of more than one listener! An audience touched at the heart. Interesting situation?!
Noticeable is that all major and minor chords now sound more settled and consonant while the instruments have a rich sonority that is missing when the out-of-tune harmonics of ET/440Hz cause unnatural cancellations. The piano (7ft. here) sounds richer and fuller than traditionally prepared 9ft. pianos and becomes more lyrical and thus less percussive as the notes take on a pure "bell-like" quality with extended length of tone.
These works were selected because of their wonderful lyrical qualities and mature writing styles. Born of Italian extraction Franz Ignaz Danzi (1763-1826) was a German cellist, composer and conductor, the son of the noted Italian cellist Innocenz Danzi. Born in Schwetzingen, Franz worked in Mannheim, Munich, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, where he died. Danzi and Vanhal lived at a significant time in the history of European concert music. Their careers spanned the transition from the Classical to the Romantic styles. As a young man Danzi and his senior Johann Vanhal knew Mozart, whom they revered; Danzi though, was a contemporary of Beethoven, about whom, like many of his generation, had strong but mixed feelings; and was a mentor for the young Carl Maria von Weber, whose music he promoted. In or around 1784, Haydn, Dittersdorf, Mozart and Vanhal played string quartets together; Haydn and Dittersdorf played the violins, Mozart the viola, and Vanhal cello. The recorder of this event, tenor Michael Kelly, stated that they played well but not outstandingly together, but the awe of four of the great composers of the time all joined in music-making is a classic image of the era. Mozart actually performed Vanhal's Violin Concerto in B flat in Augsburg in 1777.
Since detailed information on these composers is easily found with Internet access, I will mention briefly that Mannheim was famous during the 18th C for its wonderfully large orchestra and busy, talented composers. One of the important innovations by Mannheim Composers was the use of maturing wind writing techniques. We find that Danzi, principal cellist, wrote many chamber and solo works for wind instruments. Even though he is not considered as important of a composer as he was cellist and director, his works overflow with expressive and playful passages. His (and Vanhal's) slow movements here foreshadow tragic Romantic era arias.
Danzi remained in Mannheim when Karl Theodor moved his court to Munich in 1778. After an apprenticeship with the small theater orchestra left in Mannheim, he rejoined the main court in Munich as principal cellist taking his father's position in 1784. He composed in most major genres of the time, including opera, church music, orchestral works, and many varieties of chamber music. It is notable that Francesca Lebrun (1756-1791 same dates for Mozart), a singer and composer, was Danzi's sister.
Born in Bohemia, to a Czech peasant family, Johann Vanhal (1739-1813) received his early training from a local musician. From these humble beginnings he was able to earn a living as a village organist and choirmaster. The Countess Schaffgotsch, who heard him playing the violin, took him to Vienna in 1760, where she arranged lessons in composition with Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Further patronage helped him to travel and gain additional knowledge of music and by the age of 35, he was moving in exalted musical company as described earlier.
Vanhal was reported to have suffered from an unspecified nervous disorder, which eventually went away, but which gave rise to the opinion held by several that the quality of his compositions deteriorated with the disappearance of his condition. Scholars such as Paul Bryan believe that assertion." It is also believed that this particular sonata was written after extended association with Mozart's and his music.
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era.. Rameau explained his essential musical styles in his theoretical treatises. Rameau stood by his philosophy that the laws of life, science and music are unchangeable universal principles. His theories regarding the relationship between functional harmony and the principles of acoustics (as discovered by Pythagoras) has influenced musical thought from his time to the present. For many composers of the Baroque era, the relationship of acoustic science and musical theory was thought to have cosmic significance. The idea of a divinely ordered celestial harmony stemmed from Greek philosophy and the writings of the early Christian philosophers, most notably, Severnius Boethius. These cosmic principles were thought to have emanated from God and as such had deep religious and spiritual connotations. Until Maria Renold's solution (1960s) it was Pythagoras' model of musical structure that was responsible for countless futile debates on keyboard temperaments.
New York clarinetist Dennis Dougherty has specialized in performances promoting both contemporary composers (many premiered works have been written for him and his wife Olga Dusheina) as well as little known works by almost forgotten composers. He studied clarinet with the legendary soloist Bennie Gregurick, Keith Stein (Chicago Symphony) and with John McCaw (Philharmonia Orchestra of London), however his first teacher as a child was an English instructor. His piano studies started at age five but interest in the clarinet quickly took precedence. Many of his own works have been featured in local and international concerts. As an audio engineer, he assisted in the world's first broadcast of a compact disc (WFMT, Chicago) and engineered the first digital replay of a live concert broadcast (WQXR, NY). He also engineered the first music broadcast in digital code.
Christopher Oldfather has devoted himself to the performance of twentieth-century music for more than thirty years. He has participated in innumerable world-premiere performances, in every possible combination of instruments in cities all over America. He has been a member of Boston's Collage New Music since 1979, New York City's Parnassus since 1997, appears regularly in Chicago, and as a collaborator has joined singers and instrumentalists of all kinds in recitals throughout the United States. In 1986 he presented his recital debut in Carnegie Recital Hall, and since then he has pursued an active career as a freelance musician. This work has taken him as far afield as Moscow and Tokyo, and he has worked on every sort of keyboard ever made, even including the Chromelodeon. He is widely known for his expertise on the harpsichord, and is one of the leading interpreters of twentieth-century works for that instrument. As a soloist Mr. Oldfather has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, and Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt. He has collaborated with the conductor Robert Craft and can be heard on several of his recordings. His recording of Elliott Carter's violin-piano Duo with Robert Mann was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1990. His thorough understanding of Baroque and classical styles was of great benefit in preparing this recording with Mr. Dougherty: Especially in that clarinetists are not generally as well versed in Baroque traditions as many other musicians.
Recorded July 18th, 2012 - Threefold Auditorium - Spring Valley, NY