Marhulets: Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet

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Wlad Marhulets
B. May 1986, Minsk, Belarus

Wlad Marhulets is a Polish composer of Jewish descent. Born in Minsk on May 1986, he began to be seriously interested in music at the age of 16. Wlad attended the Academy of Music in Gdansk where he studied composition with Krzysztof Olczak, and later transferred to The Juilliard School in New York where he began studying with one of contemporary music’s most distinguished composers, John Corigliano.

Since identity has always been at the center of Wlad’s music, he explores his heritage most ardently through his compositions. Acquaintance with Leopold Kozlowsky, known as the last klezmer of Galicia, as well as fascination with David Krakauer’s recordings took on great importance for Wlad’s development as a composer. Hence, the most important influences that his music is based upon include an amalgamation of klezmer and Jewish tradition. Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker once described Klezmer as, “Klezmer is the celebratory folk music of Eastern European Jews…It is complex, virtuoso music, but also deeply spiritual, reflecting Hasidic and liturgical melodies and traditions.”

Marhulets writes of this music: “Before I even started my musical education, I had fallen in love with Klezmer music. In fact, it was my strong desire to play Klezmer music that led me to become a musician in the first place. Inspired by the recordings of David Krakauer, I chose clarinet as my major, and began to play and compose Klezmer tunes and classical music while studying at the Academy of Music in Gdansk, Poland.

For a long time, my dream was to meet the person who turned me into a musician. After studying clarinet and composition for six years, I made up my mind to go to New York and try, at least, to meet David Krakauer personally. To my surprise, my big dream came true, and I not only met David, but ended up writing a concerto for him.

The concerto, in three movements, alternates two main influences that are deeply rooted in David Krakauer’s discography: funk, and electronics (electronic effects are simulated by acoustic means). While the initial theme of the first movement introduces a wild musical idea, accompanied by an ostinato in the orchestra and funky rhythms, the second one brings a quite traditional-sounding Klezmer tune. The tune is presented in a way that simulates the well-known electronic “delay” effect, which is achieved through constant repeats of either single notes or short figures. The second movement begins with a cadenza that gradually turns into a lyrical melody on which the entire movement is based. A second cadenza leads towards a wild climax, which is taken over by the finale (attacca). The final movement combines two contrasting themes, in which Klezmer style is represented by particular playing techniques rather than actual musical material. While the first theme, written in 7/8, is similar to a folk melody, the second one is a tango caricature. Both themes develop towards a frenzied burst of energy that ends the piece.”

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