Importance of Harmonic Analysis to Inform Twentieth-Century Clarinet Performance Practice

The 20th century has given rise to many prominent and substantial clarinet works, rich in harmonic complexity and unique historical contexts. For a clarinetist, an understanding of the theoretical construction of any piece is crucial to creating informed and intentional performances. However, some artists today might not delve into the complexities of 20th-century musical styles, and because of this, they would miss the opportunity to re-create unique and well-crafted compositions from a time not too distant from their own. For clarinet works written in the 20th century, a performing artist must be just as diligent as ever to use in-depth harmonic and historical analyses to inform their performance approach. Modernism, neoclassicism, and many other musical movements of the past century have yielded clarinet repertoire that demands great attention from any performer, and to play these pieces well, it does not suffice for a clarinetist to possess minimal musical knowledge. Through the analysis of five clarinet works that were written at various points of the 20th-century, the author will display how a deeper understanding of complex musical analysis and historical knowledge can significantly determine the success of performances given by today's clarinetists. Harmonic analyses, reception histories, and reflections of composers and performers will be used to achieve this goal, and from this research, the author will also be able to illustrate how an artist can use this knowledge to accomplish musically informed performances that honor 20th-century clarinet masterworks.

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