Dimitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 9

Third Movement Solo video

This unusual symphony has many great moments for clarinet in its short movements, especially in movements 2 and 3. Occasionally, the solo at the end of the first movement will appear on auditions. Be jaunty-plus in the mood of Shostakovich's unique mixture of enforced-happiness meets dispair. Accent the trill, which will be out of tune if you play this solo on the B-flat clarinet. Make a nice cresc. up high, and keep the mood with a little bit of bite, but don't get spread or shrill. Especially at an audition, tone down the edge to the sound as you play high and loud.

The second movement is the big solo, and presents some unique problems, the first among them being tempo - the range of tempos in which this movement is played is so wide that the slow tempo is half that of the fast tempo. If you know which your orchestra/conductor prefers ahead of time, you can practice it at that tempo. Have several breath options in case the tempo does not meet your expectations. At an audition, I recommend a middle ground of around 138 bpm. Plus or minus a few clicks is not important, but being strictly in time is. You can vary the tempo at a performance, with the conductor, but not at an audition. Keep that in mind when sneaking breaths, too. Avoid the issue of repeated p high Ds, and play the whole thing on B-flat clarinet (write it out). This way, you can play side C-sharp in the same partial as the rest of the solo. The mood is melancholy and many of the hairpins seem to be in odd places musically, or seem like they should continue for longer. For example, I recommend no dim. until you reach the written A-flat, and cresc. until that point. Mirror this gesture elsewhere in the solo, such as in measure 8 and 10. The sudden downward dim. such as at the end of measure 4 can be seen as somewhere between a sigh and a sob. Practice the leap to the written high F-sharp, and continue the hairpin from the bar before all the way to the high D two bars later. The next two measures are the only ones this motive has without the cresc. Continue the hairpin dim. to highlight this, and make the high D in measure 24 very soft as a result. Playing that will be much easier as a side C-sharp on the B-flat clarinet. Most auditions end at measure 32, but many continue through the clarinet duet passage that begins there and end at letter A.

The third movement is the typical biting, sardonic, Shostakovich Scherzo, though with a B-flat clarinet where the typical E-flat clarinet solo is, because there is no piccolo clarinet in this symphony. Tempo varies from 112 to 130, so I like to audition at 120. Play up the character by being a little shorter than normal at the beginning, but deceptively nice. Make a huge cresc. in measure 6 on only 6 sixteenth-notes to a biting f. and a great dim. ending your temper tantrum by letter A, where other woodwinds join you. Have the same mood change when reaching f after A and cresc. the final run in measure 16. Moderate the bite of your tone at an audition, and play a real p that you are unlikely to be able to do in a performance. Be careful of rushing the sixteenth-notes, especially when crescendoing. Most auditions end in 17, but many continue to B, 39, or C. If they don't specify, be prepared. It is quite common to slow down in 33 - don't, and of course be rock-steady throughout.