Works Solo Instrument(s) & Orchestra Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1942)


The Sonata for Clarinet and Piano was Bernstein’s first published composition. This work reflects the youthful enthusiasm of the time: walking basses, pervasive syncopations and melodic flourishes make this a fun and exciting work. At clarinetist Richard Stoltzman’s suggestion, Bernstein’s long-time orchestrator Sid Ramin has produced a lean and spare orchestration for strings and percussion.

Bernstein wrote in a letter to Aaron Copland (15 W. 52, New York) in the Spring of 1943:

"The little Hargail Music Co. wanted to publish the Clarinet Sonata. Out of professional courtesy I showed it first to Warner’s, and they knocked me over by loving it, and insisting on publishing it. I was downhearted, since Hargail wanted to make a commercial recording of it. Now Hargail is offering me all sorts of fantastic royalty rates if I’ll give it to them, and says that they will make the recording anyway! A labor of love, if I ever heard one. But Warner’s points out that they, as a large firm...can do so much more for it than can a little thing like Hargail...Matters are now suspended by a hair.

Warner’s presented me with a five-year contract! I’m taking it to a lawyer today to find out what it says. It looks like my life that I’m signing away. But it adds to my little old salary a substantial weekly advance on future mythical royalties, which increases each year."

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(1942) 10 min
World Premiere:
April 21, 1942. Institute of Modern Art, Boston, MA, United States | David Glazer, clarinet / Leonard Bernstein, piano
(1942, arr. 1994) 11 min
World Premiere:
July 23, 1994. Sapporo, Japan | Richard Stoltzman, clarinet / Pacific Music Festival Orchestra / Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Solo clarinet-perc(1)-piano-strings
Version Notes
arranged for clarinet and orchestra by Sid Ramin

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Cover of the Manuscript of Bernstein's Sonata for Clarinet and Piano
Library of Congress Library of Congress

Leonard Bernstein: Clarinet Sonata - II. Vivace e leggiero
℗ & © 1993, BMG Music ℗ & © 1993, BMG Music

Review The compelling clarion calls of a clarinet from the University of Chicago Presents From "Hype Park Herald | M.L. Rantala" 2020

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