Paolo Marchettini: Ebony Chants

, composer


Composer and clarinetist Paolo Marchettini releases his second album with New Focus, Ebony Chants, evoking the rich wood that is used in clarinet construction. The recording includes solo works alongside music for multiple clarinets and highlights Marchettini's subtle, lyrical compositional voice. Marchettini strikes an engaging balance between experimental elements such as the use of microtones and extended techniques, and more traditional material, performing the works with elegance and virtuosity.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 60:53
01Due Canti: I. Il canto del giorno
Due Canti: I. Il canto del giorno
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Meng Zhang, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet3:15

Cinque Oracoli

Paolo Marchettini, clarinet
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet2:07
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet1:26
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet1:38
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet1:48
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet1:45

Preludio e Corrente

Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet, Tommy Shermulis, bass clarinet
07I. Preludio
I. Preludio
Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet, Tommy Shermulis, bass clarinet2:30
08II. Corrente
II. Corrente
Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet, Tommy Shermulis, bass clarinet4:49
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet4:10

Cinque Fanfare Napoletane

Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet
10I. Fanfara on “Torna a Surriento”
I. Fanfara on “Torna a Surriento”
Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet1:30
11II. Fanfara on “Santa Lucia”
II. Fanfara on “Santa Lucia”
Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet0:59
12III. Fanfara on “Fenesta che lucive”
III. Fanfara on “Fenesta che lucive”
Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet1:42
13IV. Fanfara on “’A vucchella”
IV. Fanfara on “’A vucchella”
Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet2:07
14V. Fanfara on “Funiculí funiculà”
V. Fanfara on “Funiculí funiculà”
Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet1:59

Three Sketches

Paolo Marchettini, clarinet
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet1:35
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet1:25
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet1:36
Meng Zhang, clarinet, Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet, Tommy Shermulis, bass clarinet2:22
19Music of Color
Music of Color
Paolo Marchettini, clarinets, Tommy Shermulis, bass clarinet3:11
Tommy Shermulis, bass clarinet3:24
21Nec Clari
Nec Clari
Paolo Marchettini, clarinets6:17
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet7:26
23Due Canti: II. Il canto della notte
Due Canti: II. Il canto della notte
Paolo Marchettini, clarinet, Meng Zhang, clarinet, Ka Hei Chan, clarinet1:52

On Ebony Chants, Rome born, New York based composer and clarinetist Paolo Marchettini turns his attention to his own instrument and the rich catalog of works he has written for it in solo and ensemble settings. The music is colorful and varied, demonstrating Marchettini’s versatility composing in different aesthetic contexts. Allusions to multiple eras and styles of music are seamlessly integrated in music that is natural and always breathes. What is more, his performances as a solo player and in ensemble settings with his colleagues are virtuosic, precise, and heartfelt.

The album opens with the first movement of Due Canti (2022) for clarinet trio, “Il canto de giorno”, which itself starts with a poignant solo soliloquy. When the other two clarinets join, it is on a moderate trill that transforms itself into an effervescent backdrop for an expansive melody in a higher register.

Cinque Oracoli (2022) is a five movement work for solo clarinet, and contains some of the most experimental material on the album. Somber melodic figures bloom into quietly luminescent multiphonics. Subtle quarter-tone inflections facilitate sighing descending lines, off-color oscillating figures, and expressive micro-appoggiaturas. The fourth movement features a modular approach to motive, truncating and expanding a gesture that includes odd groupings and accented intervallic leaps. The final movement is based around a repeated ritualistic two note figure, as Marchettini injects delicate life into a series of multiphonics.

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The opening movement of Preludio e Corrente (2009) for clarinet quartet is tentative and searching, with several questioning phrases that pause before reaching a conclusion. The “Corrente” features driving rhythmic material as the clarinets divide into pairs and play interlocking figures highlighting closely spaced intervals. The unrelenting drive is interrupted as the instruments float around one another, settle into a chorale texture, and make space for a solo turn of phrase in the bass clarinet. The vigorous pulsation returns briefly to a hybrid melodic line that passes through the quartet and ascends into the high register in one clarinet, punctuated lightly by two final chords in the ensemble.

Prayer (2011) for solo clarinet is a somber plea for peace. An insistent bass note supports a repeated flourish and as the piece develops, the register ascends and the material becomes increasingly impassioned. The work ends with flutter tongue and multiphonic techniques that draw us into the sound of the clarinet, a meditation in service of a prayer.

Cinque Fanfare Napoletane (2020) for clarinet trio uses five Neapolitan songs as source material, not for transcriptions, but as a jumping off point for original music. The pieces have a light folkloric quality, reveling in characteristic rhythms and gestures, which Marchettini sprinkles with dry humor. The set closes with “Fanfara on ‘Funiculí funiculà,’” with the famous melody reharmonized as if it was a theme in a late Impressionistic work.

Three Sketches (2010) for solo clarinet is motivically driven, spinning out an idea for each movement in a compelling display of the instrument’s capabilities in a solo context. The second sketch is a dialogue between mezzo-forte and extremely quiet sotto voce figures, creating a kind of dynamic counterpoint. In the final movement, an ominous percussive pulse is heard throughout, with occasional hiccups in the rhythm, accompanying a furtive clarinet line.

Epitaffio (2022) for clarinet quartet is solemn, as undulating, close interval phrases are dotted by unsettling staccato attacks. Music of Color (2020) for multiple overdubbed clarinets is a kind of a color field piece, as layers of independent percolating activity fuse to create an amalgam. A leitmotif in the solo B-flat clarinet reasserts itself throughout, as gruff bass clarinet grumbling establishes the work’s persistent expressive dichotomy.

Entrée (2006) for solo bass clarinet, played here by Tommy Shermulis, is a peripatetic work, anxiously flitting from one angular phrase to another. The energy of the piece diffuses towards the end, allowing silence into the texture as an increasingly active voice in the fabric. Like Music of Color, Nec Clari (2006) establishes an expressive mood through independent repetition of similar material, painting a cloud of ambiguous harmonic and gestural activity.

Tratto (2016, rev. 2019) returns to the solo clarinet form, and is the longest single movement solo work in the collection, and as such takes more time developing than several of the shorter works on the album. Reflective material opens the work, becoming more annunciatory and then more active before retreating to the inward facing material of the opening. Ebony Chants closes with the final movement of Due Canti, “Il canto della notte,” a beautifully lyrical coda to this rich and understated collection of clarinet music.

– Dan Lippel

Due Canti, Preludio e Corrente, Cinque Fanfare Napoletane and Epitaffio recorded at Myers Recording Studio, Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY; Mie Hirschfield, recording engineer
Prayer recorded in Greenfield Hall, Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY; Dan Rorke, recording engineer
Cinque Oracoli, Three Sketches and Tratto recorded at Q Recording Studio, Milano, Italy Antonio Nappo, recording engineer
Music of Color and Entrée recorded in The Solomon Mikowsky Recital Hall, Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY; Meng Zhang, recording engineer
Nec Clari was recorded at Sasha Barbot Studio, New York, NY; Sasha Barbot, recording engineer

Executive Producer: Paolo Marchettini
Mixing and mastering: Meng Zhang
Post-production advisor: Daniel Lippel

Cover Art: Eva Redamonti
Design and Layout: Marc Wolf,

Paolo Marchettini plays a Patricola clarinet

Paolo Marchettini

Composer, clarinetist, and pianist, Paolo Marchettini is a native of Rome, Italy. With a wide catalog of works including orchestral, choral, vocal and chamber music, his music has been commissioned and performed by an array of international festivals including the Biennale di Venezia (Venice), PlayIt! Festival (Florence), Festival Berio (Rome), Nuova Consonanza (Rome), Villecroze (France), Baki Contempo Festivali (Azerbaijan) and others. In 2005 he was a prizewinner in the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition for his Violin Concerto, while his piece Mercy for orchestra won the 2012 PlayIt! Festival prize as best symphonic piece of the year.

His music has been performed by such orchestras and ensembles as the Orchestra Regionale Toscana, Orchestra Haydn, Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta, Orchestra di Santa Cecilia, the Sofia Radio Symphony Orchestra, Algoritmo Ensemble, and Freon Ensemble, and broadcasted by Vatican Radio, Rai Radiotre, Swiss Radio, BR - Bayer Rundfunk Munich, and Radio Berlin-Brandenburg. As an active and accomplished clarinetist, he has performed as soloist with orchestras in both Europe and the United States, and collaborated directly with many distinguished composers including Goffredo Petrassi, Luciano Berio, Salvatore Sciarrino, Ennio Morricone, and Sylvano Bussotti. Marchettini holds a doctorate in composition from the Manhattan School of Music. He studied composition, choral music, choral conducting, and clarinet at the Conservatorio and Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in his native Rome and graduated with honors from Tor Vergata University in Rome with a degree in Arts, Music, and Show Disciplines. His teachers included Ivan Vandor, Azio Corghi, Richard Danielpour, Luciano Pelosi, and Claudio Dall’ Albero.

His music is published by Edizioni Curci, and Raitrade. In 2021 he released the album The Months Have Ends on New Focus Recordings with his orchestral works. This album received great reviews, and it has been presented by both American and European radio stations. He is the only Italian composer in history to have published an entire cycle of 24 preludes and fugues in all keys. He served as Assistant Professor of Composition at the Berklee College of Music (Boston), and currently teaches in the Theory Department at the Manhattan School of Music (New York).

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