I believe these transcriptions to be significant because they help fill a void of Baroque music for the clarinet. These transcriptions remain as authentic to the original compositions as possible. Because I believe Johann Sebastian Bach to be the preeminent Baroque composer, I started this project of transcribing Baroque pieces with only his works.
Clarinetists are seldomly instructed throughout their training to study arrangements of Baroque music to improve their understanding of the Baroque period and to better themselves as musicians, and such arrangements have not become standard in the clarinetist’s repertoire. I believe the reasons for this are threefold. First, clarinet recordings exclusively featuring Baroque music do not exist, so exposure is limited. Second, it is very difficult to find Baroque music that can be transcribed to the clarinet with little or no alterations. While there are numerous arrangements of Baroque music for clarinet that are published, most have been unnecessarily altered from the original compositions. Such alterations include octave displacements, changing the keys, and simplifying the technique, all of which diminish the quality and authenticity of the compositions. Third, playing in the Baroque style is very different than the style in which clarinetists are trained from their earliest years. Because clarinet did not exist during the Baroque period, clarinetists don’t study this period as most other instrumentalists do. Therefore, most clarinetists don’t have an understanding or grasp on how to perform in the Baroque style, such as executing standard performance practice of the period and ornamentations. It has taken several years of listening to Baroque specialists, taking lessons with Baroque performers and reading pedagogical books by CPE Bach, Quantz and Donington, only to begin to understand and be able to execute Baroque style and performance on the clarinet.
Therefore, I undertook transcribing compositions that would work well as arrangements for the clarinet and would require very little or no alterations. Using these criteria to choose pieces resulted in a more select body of works to transcribe and made them more challenging to perform.
The resulting transcriptions are closer to what the composers would have composed for the modern clarinet if it had existed in their time. In addition, these transcriptions give clarinetists an expanded choice of quality repertoire from the Baroque era. To add to the authenticity of the recordings, these pieces were recorded with the accompanying instrumentation for which they were originally written.
Below are links to purchase these transcriptions and several CDs, including 'Bach in Time on the Clarinet'. The transcriptions contain very little and in some cases no dynamincs or written ornamentations, leaving these to the interpretive skills of the performer, as was done during the Baroque period. I would encourage those who play these to study performance practice techniques of the Baroque period (overall style and ornamentations) through reading books by Quantz, CPE Bach and others, as well as listening to Baroque performance specialists. I hope these transcriptions and this recording is worthwhile for pleasure, study and performance.
CDs and Baroque Transcriptions by Joseph Eller
These transcriptions are for the clarinet parts only. They are all trascribed in their original keys so all the original accompaniment parts should be used and can be accessed for free at local libraries and through imslp.org.
Featuring arrangements of Bach for clarinet by Joseph Eller
The University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble live at the 2013 National CBDNA convention featuring Joseph Eller performing the Concerto for Clarinet by Frank Ticheli
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Ticheli, movement I
Bach, Allegro from 1017
Chamber music of John Fitz Rogers
Opera with the Palmetto Camerata
Toccata and Fugue for organ, BWV 565 by Bach, arr. for Bb clarinet by Joseph Eller
Sonata in E minor for violin, BWV 1023 by Bach, arr. for A clarinet by Joseph Eller
Sonata in G minor for viola da gamba, BWV 1029 by Bach, arr. for Bb clarinet by Joseph Eller
Sonata in C minor for violin, BWV 1017 by Bach, arr. for Bb clarinet by Joseph Eller
Sonata in E minor, Op. 5, No. 8 by Corelli, arr. for A clarinet by Joseph Eller
Seufzer, Tranen, Kummer, Not from Cantata, BWV 21 by Bach. Oboe obbligato arr. for Bb clarinet by Joseph Eller
Ich nehme mein Leiden mit Freuden from Cantata, BWV 75 by Bach. Oboe d'amore obbligato arr. for A clarinet by Joseph Eller
Ich will auf den Herren schua'n from Cantata, BWV 93 by Bach. Oboe obbligato arr. for Bb clarinet by Joseph Eller
Es halt' es mit der blinden Welt from Cantata, BWV 94 by Bach. Oboe d'amore obbligato arr. for A clarinet by Joseph Eller
Review of 'Bach in Time' CD from the February 2014 issue of the Italian journal MUSICA:
This magnificent recording, made in 2010, will make you gasp: you will find in it some Bach scores that have been transcribed by Joseph Eller, clarinetist, soloist in several US orchestras and teacher of clarinet at the University of South Carolina. Already in the E Sonata BWV 1023, in four movements, Eller proves himself as an expert in Bach philology. Intimate and warm in the former Allegro, he gives as un Adagio refined to the smallest detail, with appoggiaturas, acciaccaturas and mordents that are always crystal clear. And in the Allemande and in the Giga the dialogue with the organist Johnson is excellent.The gem of this cd is the Toccata and fugue in D, BWV 565, a piece that has been played by many organists, and that you will never imagine transcribed for solo clarinet. But Eller succeeds in extrapolating its soul, proving us everything is possible. The clarinet, according to its nature, has some acoustic limits, in intonation, extension and harmonics. But Eller can play perfectly every single note, as he imagines his “tube” as an organ pipe, with a sound that is rich, creamy in the centre-high notes and beautifully fat below. Moreover, he shows off great technical ability and he avoids bad taste: ovation!Then, the G Sonata BWV 1029, transcribed for harpsichord and clarinet, played in mutual understanding with the excellent Jerry Curry. The three movements follow one after another with easiness, with perfects tempos and phrasing.Then we hear three Arias, from Cantatas BWV 21 and BWV 93, transcribed for soprano, continuo and clarinet. Tina Milhorn Stallard sings beautifully and, thanks to the sound of the clarinet, this transcription makes these arias full of lyricism, connecting them to the world of the Eighteenth Century opera. Particularly nice is the cantata BWV 93, that gives you a sweet felling and introduces to the first movement of the gorgeous Sonata in C BWV 1017. The musicians here are more introspective but always full of passion. My compliments, then, to soprano Tina Milhorn Stallard, the organist Jared Johnson, the cembalist Jerry Curry, the cellist Robert Jesselson and, obviously, to the “king” of this recording journey, Joseph Eller. An interpretation that goes beyond the instrument itself.