…Gill’s treatment creates a fresh, unique, special and convincing 22-minute concertpiece for clarinet and large orchestra. Grymes deserves commendation for his performance, which is delivered with a beautiful sound, dazzling technical facility and the utmost lyricism.
– The Clarinet, March 2019
The piece was written for Chris Grymes, who inspired its spirit when he told Gill he had a dream about a clarinetist who refused to play anything that was not written in C major. Gill seems to have taken the opposite tack harmonically, luxuriating in polychromatic language. He does, however, retain the dreamy and at times nightmarish sense suggested by Grymes, with music of great energy and wit.
– Broad Street Review, 20 August 2018
…compellingly active and varied…
– Gramophone, April 2018
Gill dissolves limitations of time, space, and consciousness in seductive, dreamlike flights of fancy.
– HRAudio.net, March 2018
…amazing virtuosity and lyricism played against a large and lucid orchestral fabric.
– New Music Buff, 10 January 2018
His Notturno Concertante…is very fine, featuring a broad, episodic structure, Gill’s keen sense for timbral blending, and perhaps most significantly, a brilliantly colorful virtuoso solo part. Grymes, who played the music from memory, delivered a swaggeringly bravura performance that brought much of the audience to its feet.
– Peter Burwasser (Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia), 3 June 2015
Those are the bookends Maestro Stuart Malina selected to embrace the world premiere of the evening’s other treasure, a wonderfully intricate new clarinet concerto by Central Pennsylvania native and current Boston resident Jeremy Gill, who attended Saturday night’s opening performance at The Forum in downtown Harrisburg…[clarinetist Chris] Grymes demonstrated superlative skill throughout this new work, which built to a swirling finale reminiscent of Ravel…Malina welcomed Gill to the stage following the performance, where he joined Grymes for an extended ovation.
– The Sentinel, 10 November 2014
Then came the world premiere of Notturno Concertante by Harrisburg’s own Jeremy Gill, a spellbinding work with more charms than The Forum ceiling has stars.
– The Harrisburg Patriot-News, 9 November 2014
In mid-2013 I received commissions to compose two wind concertos (Serenada Concertante for oboist Erin Hannigan and the Dallas Symphony and Notturno Concertante for clarinetist Chris Grymes and the Harrisburg Symphony). I immediately knew that I wanted them to form a pair, and since wind instruments are historically associated with the outdoors, I decided to reference two popular, and closely related, Classical-era outdoor “forms”: the serenade and the nocturne. Both of these celebrate the natural world, and I had long harbored the idea of composing a pair of works that explored day and night, similar to how James Joyce does in Ulysses and Finneganʼs Wake, respectively. Thus, the diurnal Serenada Concertante, and nocturnal Notturno Concertante.
Notturno Concertante begins with the solo clarinet imitating its instrumental ancestor, the chalumeau (literally “reed”), a melodic instrument of the late Baroque. Chalumeau is also the name of the lower register of the clarinet (essentially from the “break” down), and the soloist plays the entirety of the introduction in this register. The introduction quotes an aria by Vivaldi (from Juditha triumphans, composed for obbligato chalumeau and strings) in which the chalumeau imitates a lovesick dove.
Balancing the chalumeau opening of Notturno Concertante, the ending focuses on the “clarino” register of the clarinet. (The clarinetʼs early role in Classical repertoire was to play trumpet parts, and the “tiny trumpet” appellation continues to apply to the upper register of the clarinet.) This clarino coda is begun with offstage trumpets and drum, and the solo clarinet affirms its brassy history by playing short fanfares that are taken up by the orchestral winds.
These two sections, fixated on the lowest and highest registers of the clarinet, are bookends to the extended middle section of Nottuno Concertante. They frame a lengthy dream sequence, with the chalumeau music lulling us to sleep, the clarino rousing us awake, for Notturno Concertante is a “nocturne” in the truest sense: a night piece that explores the internal world of the sleeper.
This major middle part of Notturno Concertante is in 16 sections, and each is recognizable by the orchestral instruments it features (the first section features oboes and English horn, the second muted trumpets, etc.). Each section also features one category of pitch collection, and these categories are invariant within instrumental families: the winds always play chromatically, the brasses use whole-tone based scales and chords, and the strings use white notes (diatonic but not necessarily tonal). The percussion is mostly unpitched, and evokes the hyper-activity of REM sleep.
Taking my cue from Freud, who suggests in The Interpretation of Dreams that dreams are often psychic responses to physical events (one dreams of suffocating and awakens to find oneʼs face buried in a pillow), I always have the clarinet follow the orchestra: in terms of its pitch and melodic content it is always reacting to what has recently happened, such that it is possible to imagine the orchestra as the body, the soloist the psyche, of one sleeper. At the end of this “dream” section, the clarinet remembers the Vivaldi quoted in the introduction—as with real sleep, the sleeper is unaware that time has passed, and returns to waking life, which continues as if without interruption.
An actual dream relayed to me by Chris Grymes, Notturno Concertanteʼs dedicatee, focused me on the internal nocturnal world (rather than the natural nocturnal world, which is far more commonly encountered in music). Chris dreamed of a clarinetist who only played white notes, but was so adept that people would travel far and wide to hear him. He specifically remembered a densely chromatic passage in Nielsenʼs Clarinet Concerto that the clarinetist “whitened” and performed to great effect. This led me to include that very passage from the Nielsen (played correctly by the orchestral clarinets and subsequently whitened by the solo clarinet), and to the idea of mixing pitch collections and having the solo clarinet always following, out of phase with, the orchestra.