“Arshak Andriasov, Iosif Andriasov’s son provided me with a variety of background information about the complicated and painful history of Iosif Andriasov’s life in his quest to compose music while in Russia. Andriasov was younger than Dimitri Shostakovich, who supported his work in numerous ways. Immediately when reading this work for the first time, I could sense a strong connection to the past, yet a reach towards the future. The first movement of this two–movement work is comprised of passionate phrases, both accessible for the listener and challenging for the performer, while the second movement presents beautifully innovative rhythmic and metric ideas in a contemporary framework of a neatly crafted and succinct form that demonstrates Andriasov’s comprehensive knowledge of many styles of music through music history. Many works for clarinet require the clarinetist to immediately zero in on the technical passages, which can sometimes be quite demanding and can often take a good deal of time to master. This work though, immediately brought me to consider the phrasing, shapes of the lines, dynamics, and tone colors. The technical difficulties still remain in this work, but somehow I sense the importance–coming directly from the composer–that there is deep meaning behind these musical ideas. Therefore, I found myself focusing most on how to phrase these varied and poignant musical ideas when preparing this work for performance.
Iosif Andriasov was a masterful orchestrator and knew the clarinet well. He wrote in ranges that allow the clarinetist to resonate and color certain notes in which the clarinet can really sing. This knowledge of the clarinet reminds me of Brahms’ knowledge of the colors of the clarinet. And regarding meter, rhythm and overall spirit of second movement of this work, Andriasov beautifully crafts a seemingly simple 6/8 meter into a multi-dimensional structure, allowing both the performers and listener to hear the underlying eighth note pulse, while subtly embedding a feel of duples and triples into a beautifully natural feeling, yet very contemporary rhythmically driving movement–all rooted in the Russian passion and spirit of his country. I can only imagine that his many interactions with people like Shostakovich mentored his sense of artistic ideals to never settle for anything less than the most sincere mode of expression he could craft as he approached the art of composition. I thoroughly enjoyed learning and performing this work and hope to perform it more in the future. It reminds me of why we play music–to “express,” not to “impress.”