Music by

PROGRAM NOTES by the composer

Three Romances for Flute and Bb Clarinet

THREE ROMANCES was composed "by accident" in several stages. Throughout the summer of 2006, I was mainly focused on writing a lengthy piano concerto.

One day in July 2006, a frisky-sounding duet for flute and clarinet just popped out. It was a complete movement, but too short to be a stand-alone composition, so I decided to write a few more companion movements. The next day I wrote beginnings of two more, and then went back to work on the concerto.

In January 2007 the piano concerto was done, and I came back to these sketches. One turned into a steamy tango, perhaps influenced by the style of Jobim, so I called it "Sultry." The other was very lyrical, and full of a sighing motive, so I called it "Languid," not realizing this might imply a slower tempo than the allegro that's called for. Given those subtitles, the last movement became "Frisky," which is perhaps an understatement.

Oddly, I'd written three movements without knowing what order to play them in. Despite the many long notes, "Languid" is an allegro, and despite the many 8ths and 16ths, "Sultry" is most effective when played as a slow steamy bump-and-grind song. The "Frisky" finale may be played as fast as remains comfortable.

The title THREE ROMANCES was an afterthought, perhaps inspired by Schumann's title, simply because they're lyrical with a lot of expressive potential.


I've had occasion to perform THREE ROMANCES (as clarinetist) with many different flutists and have heard a lot of recordings; it's been fascinating to hear so many varied interpretations! Here are some suggestions:

I. Languid

- Despite the movement's title, the tempo instruction is Allegro, and it's actually more engaging at quarter = 84, but certainly not slower than marked. 
- The quarter-note triplets should be as even as in Bruckner (!), rather than long-long-short, as everything about this movement is lyrical bel canto.
- Being a Romance, it's fine (perhaps necessary) to freely add more swells and rubato than marked. 
- It can be very effective to add little accels in bars 21, 23, and 27, where the instruments "hold hands" in a rush of parallel motion; that makes this middle section dramatic and builds a peak before the "trough" at 30-38.

II. Sultry

- At least for me, the most essential element of a tango is its flirtacious teasing nature. Both the clarinetist and the flutist can set this mood by very slightly delaying occasional 16th-pickups  -- not perceptibly, just a microscopic tease. This rhythmic peek-a-boo can guide the feel of the whole movement, setting up expectations and then teasing about fulfilling them; the ritardando in bar 10 is a perfect example. This shouldn't be overdone, however, since the expectations have to be expected!
- Many flutists choose to take bar 28 and the first two notes of 29 up an octave.
- All of my music is intended to engage the listeners, and a movement like this is as much entertainment as it is objective concert music. At the 2009 Mid-Atlantic Flute Fair, Cindy Anne Broz surprised me as well as the audience by taking her shoes off just before starting this movement. (I responded by undoing my belt.) Kidding aside, that was perfectly consistent with the music, just slightly edgy.

III. Frisky 

- The publication calls for quarter = 120, but looking back a few years later, it's better around 124 or faster, with the broad melody feeling like a waltz. The 16ths in the clarinet's opening and the flute's corresponding passage at 11 should be very smooth and beatless.
- There's a lot of counting and passagework, but most important are the dynamics! The clarinet is often marked quieter than the flute, and there are some important gestures such as the drop-offs and climactic crescendos at 34-48. Bars 44 and 48 can be very exhilarating if approached with a big romantic gush!
- It can be effective to add a subtle accelerando for the last few lines into the ending.


last updated February 19, 2020