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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000100.txt from 2010/12

From: Simon Aldrich <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Music written for Benny Goodman
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2010 17:59:20 -0500

I just played Contrasts (in Kalamazoo, MI) and talked about the piece
before the concert.
Technically, the commission from Benny Goodman was not for Contrasts
per se.
Goodman was specific in his request of Bartok. Goodman wanted two
flashy movements for clarinet and violin with piano accompaniment. One
movement was to feature a clarinet cadenza and the other movement a
violin cadenza. He wanted the name of the piece to be "Rhapsody" (the
title Bartok gave the piece) and he wanted each movement not to exceed
4 minutes so he and Szigeti could record it. This was 1938 and the
vinyl records of the time (78 rpm) held a maximum of 4 minutes per side.
Bartok wrote the 7 1/2-minute, two-movement Rhapsody, sent it to
Goodman and Szigeti and it was premiered in New York with a local
pianist in early 1939.
While writing Rhapsody, Bartok got the idea to flesh out the two
Rhapsody movements and add a slow movement to make a bona fide piece
of chamber music.
When he fled fascist Hungary the following year he brought the "new
"piece (called Contrasts) with him and he premiered it with Goodman
and Szigeti.
It may seem pedantic and hair-splitting to suggest Goodman did not
commission Contrasts, but pedantry and hair-splitting is what we are
good at on this list :)
That Goodman commissioned Rhapsody, not Contrasts, does not
necessarily ruin a good story. Rather, it is a detail in the larger

Simon Aldrich

Clarinet Faculty - McGill University
Principal Clarinet - Orchestre Metropolitain de Montreal
Principal Clarinet - Orchestre de l'Opera de Montreal
Artistic Director - Jeffery Summer Concerts
Clarinet - Nouvel Ensemble Moderne
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