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I Care If You Listen: Five Questions with David Shifrin

shifrin_teachingRob Wendt asked 5 questions to David Shifrin (clarinetist, artistic director) about the legacy of Paul Hindemith—a member of the YSM faculty 1940-1953—and the central idea of a Carnegie Hall concert happening tomorrow, Friday, November 22, as part of the Yale in New York series. Indeed, the concert will feature music by Hindemith and several of his Yale students, including Alvin Etler, Lukas Foss, Mitch Leigh, Mel Powell, and Yehudi Wyner.

David Shifrin, welcome back to New York! The playful and inventive Op. 24 Kammermusik pieces (1922) date from well before Hindemith’s time at Yale, and yet they sound very ahead of their time, anticipating the later work of composers like Roger Sessions. Still in his twenties, the composer could not have known he would one day expatriate himself from Germany. How do these youthful compositions fit in with Hindemith’s overall legacy?

I have to confess that the selection of this work to open our program is a somewhat personal one. In my experience as a young clarinet student, Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik was among the most often studied and performed woodwind chamber music works. It almost defines the medium of the woodwind quintet. Stylistically and architecturally, it is near perfect, combining jazzy rhythms, expressive harmonies, amazing colors both blending and contrasting orchestration of the five diverse wind instruments.