Music for Clarinet and Theremin or Ondes Martenot

I’ve always been fascinated by unusual instruments (as witnessed by my obsession time spent playing the rare A-flat clarinet). A few months ago, I went down a rabbit hole and began researching the theremin and its not-so-distant relative, the ondes Martenot (sometimes called ondes musicales). These two early electronic instruments emit an eerie sound and immediately sparked my interest.

My logical next question: “Are there any pieces for clarinet and theremin/ondes Martenot?”

As a matter of fact, yes. But not many! Here’s a list I’ve compiled of every original piece I could find written for both clarinet and theremin or ondes Martenot.

(Lists arranged alphabetically by composer’s last name. I’ve included years of compositions for the pieces I could find this information.)

Clarinet & Theremin

  • Jon Appleton – Lydia for theremin, flute, clarinet, violin and cello (~2002)
  • Roman Luder – Cavernes for two theremins and bass clarinet (2016)
  • Frank J. Oteri – The Impatient Explorer, a Kenneth Patchen song cycle for countertenor, theremin, clarinet, kalimba, banjo, trombone
  • Olga Rayeva – Lady Bird for clarinet and theremin (1990)
  • Olga Rayeva – The Sketch for clarinet and theremin (1990)
  • Brian Robison – Dança da Tranquilidade for theremin, clarinet, cello, marimba (2008)
  • Anthony Rovner – The Moving in the Air for clarinet, theremin, and piano (1999)
  • Walter Soyka – Das Kleine Gespenst (“The Little Ghost”) – a children’s opera for six singers, flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, theremin and accordion (2011 premiere)
  • Iris Szeghy – Neniae for theremin, flute, oboe, clarinet/bass clarinet, horn, and piano (2009-2010)

Theremin trivia: Bohuslav Martinů was an early fan of the theremin and wrote his Fantasia for theremin, oboe, string quartet, and piano. Perhaps this could be arranged for clarinet?

Clarinet & Ondes Martenot

  • Brian Cherney – Qui entendrait le cri d’un ange dans les ténèbres for clarinet, ondes Martenot and cello
  • Dinos Constantinides – Lament of Antigone for voice, clarinet, percussion, and ondes Martenot (or bassoon)
  • Michel Gonneville – Le cheminement de la baleine, a double concerto for clarinet and ondes Martenot (1998)
  • Miyuki Ito – Prometheus’ Light for ondes martenot, clarinet/bass clarinet, guitar and electronics with dancers (2011)
  • Jean Lesage – Fête de nuit for clarinet, ondes Martenot and vibraphone
  • Olivier Messiaen – “Le Baiser au Lépreux” (The Kissing of the Leper) (Saint François d’Assise, Act I, Scene 3) features contrabass clarinet and ondes Martenot
  • Olivier Messiaen –  Turangalîla Symphonie, mvt III features interplay between clarinet and ondes Martenot

Ondes Martenot trivia:

  • “Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus” from Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps is an arrangement of the 4th movement of Messiaen’s 1937 Fête des belles eaux for six ondes Martenots (!!!). Messiaen also uses several other themes and ideas from this work throughout his Quatuor, particularly in “Abîme des oiseaux.”
  • Jeanne Loriod (Olivier Messiaen’s sister-in-law) is considered to be one of the best ondists since the instrument’s creation. This is undoubtedly why Messiaen included the instrument in so many of his compositions.
  • Jean Laurendeau is a Canadian clarinetist and ondist, who studied clarinet with Ulysse Delécluse and Jacques Lancelot and ondes Martenot with Jeanne Loriod and Maurice Martenot, the inventor of the instrument. After receiving a medal for his ondes skills from the Paris Conservatory, he returned to Canada, where he toured as a soloist of both the clarinet and ondes Martenot. He taught clarinet and ondes Martenot at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, and this was the first ondes class in Canada.
  • French composer Pierre Vellones was the first French composer (and the second worldwide) to compose for the ondes Martenot – he wrote Vitamine and Split for saxophone quartet and ondes (both written in 1935, and he wrote his Fantaisie for ondes in 1930).

I would like this list to be comprehensive, so please let me know of any pieces I’ve omitted so I can continue adding and discovering new pieces.

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