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.) Pieces marked with ** indicate titles and information given from the world clarinet repertoire library of Jean-Marie Paul, French clarinet expert and veritable encyclopedia of everything clarinet.

Clarinet & Theremin

  • Jon AppletonLydia for theremin, flute, clarinet, violin and cello (~2002)
  • Carolina EyckRemembrance for theremin and orchestra (3(1picc).2(+1ca).3.3 / 4.2.3 / 2 Perc / Hp / Pno / Strings) – This piece opens with a clarinet solo which is carried throughout the piece.
  • Lejaren HillerComputer Cantata for S fl/b-cl/hn/tp/str3/git/perc (10)/theremin/tape (1963)**
  • Gordon KampeRipley-Musik IV for A-cl, elec-vl, thereminvox, sampler, tape, and funk-car (2004)**
  • Roman LuderCavernes for two theremins and bass clarinet (2016)
  • Frank J. OteriThe Impatient Explorer, a Kenneth Patchen song cycle for countertenor, theremin, clarinet, kalimba, banjo, trombone
  • Olga RayevaThe Sketch for clarinet and theremin (1990)
  • Brian RobisonDança da Tranquilidade for theremin, clarinet, cello, marimba (2008)
  • Anthony RovnerThe Moving in the Air for clarinet and theremin (1999)
  • Walter SoykaDas Kleine Gespenst (“The Little Ghost”) – a children’s opera for six singers, flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, theremin and accordion (2011 premiere)
  • Iris SzeghyNeniae for theremin, flute, oboe, clarinet/bass clarinet, horn, and piano (2009-2010)
  • Imre Weisshaus (given name, but went by Paul Arma) – Petite suite pour clarinette, trantonium ou theremin (later titled Zwei Sätze) (1932)**

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?

Edit: Since the original publication of this post, I have been lucky to meet and collaborate with some incredibly talented thereminists from around the world. I’ve performed with theremin virtuoso Grégoire Blanc in Montreal and Paris, and you can hear us play an arrangement of Reinhold Glière’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano in F minor, Op. 82 here. I’ve also recorded an arrangement of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Vocalise No. 1 with Charlie Draper, who also plays the ondes Martenot as well.

Clarinet & Ondes Martenot

  • Janine CharbonnierSystemes, nonet pour clarinette, clarinette sib, trompette, trombone, contrebasse, piano, 2 percussions et ondes Martenot**
  • Brian Cherney – Qui entendrait le cri d’un ange dans les ténèbres for clarinet, ondes Martenot and cello
  • Dinos ConstantinidesLament of Antigone for voice, clarinet, percussion, and ondes Martenot (or bassoon)
  • Hugues DufourtLa Tempesta d’après Giorgione for fl/b-fl/cb-fl/ob/ehn/b-cl/cb-cl/trb/e-git/vib/elec org/ondes Martenot (1976-77), Editions Jobert**
  • David Graham EllisLove Song for fl/cl/hp/perc/ondes Martenot, United Music Publishers**
  • Eberhard EyserMélodie Basque pour alto (ou violoncelle, basson, sax alto/tenor, clarinette basse) et synthétiseur (ou piano, harpe, ondes Martenot); Stockholm, Stims Infomationscentral (c. 1981)**
  • Hans-Peter FrehnerGroßer Kanon for 2v fl/cl/b-cl/s-sax/vl/vc/db/vib/elec keyb/elec guit/ondes Martenot (2007)**
  • Hans-Peter FrehnerSongs & Melodies for 2v fl/cl/b-cl/s-sax/a-sax/vl/vc/db/vib/perc/keyb/e-guit/ondes Martenot (2007)**
  • Michael GielenEin Tag tritt hervor Pentaphonie for SATB-solo/vib/mar/elec guit/ondes Martenot/harm-soli/sp/Eb-cl/cl/A-cl/b-cl/cb-cl/str 3/hp/elec mand/perc (9)/cel/pno (1961-66), Breitkopf & Härtel**
  • Michael GielenEin Tag tritt hervor Pentaphonie mit Worten von P. Neruda pour orchestre, pno obl – solos: vibr/marimb/e-guit/ondes Martenot/harm-Sp-SATB/clar (Eb, Bb)/A clar/b clar/db-clar/perc(9)/hp/cel/e. mand/ (1961-63), Breitkopf & Härtel**
  • Michel GonnevilleLe cheminement de la baleine, a double concerto for clarinet and ondes Martenot (1998)
  • Arthur HoneggerL’idée, film music for fl/cl/sax/bn/tp/trb/str 4/perc/ondes Martenot (1934), Edition Papillon**
  • Edward Salim MichaelSuite brève for clarinet (or ondes Martenot), piano, and percussion, Editions Guraumati**
  • Darius MilhaudL’Announce faite à Marie, Suite de concert tirée de la musique pour la pièce de Paul Claudel, Op. 117. SATB-solo/2fl/cl/2sax/str/timp/vib/perc/org/p 4 hand/2 ondes Martnot (1932)**
  • Miyuki ItoPrometheus’ Light for ondes martenot, clarinet/bass clarinet, guitar and electronics with dancers (2011)
  • André Jolivet Suite delphiquefor fl/ob/cl/2 hn/tp/trb/hp/cy/perc (2)/ondes Martenot (1943), Billaudot**
  • 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
  • Marc PatchÉchos saturniens for clarinet, 2 vib, and 2 ondes Martenot (1994), Centre de Musique Canadienne**

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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