Clarinet Repertoire Requiring Costumes

Did you know that some pieces of clarinet repertoire instruct the performer to wear specific clothing or costumes?

These pieces can include costume, staging, lighting, and other theatrical elements, taking your typical clarinet performance and turning it into a real spectacle!

Here are a few pieces of clarinet repertoire requiring costumes:

  • Karlheinz Stockhausen – Harlekin for solo clarinetist/dancer – In performances of this work, clarinetists dance on stage, embodying the character of the Harlequin, a comedic figure. (Fun fact: several of Stockhausen’s compositions feature theatrical and contemporary techniques for clarinet. Since there are several clarinet features in his operas and larger ensemble works, some have been adapted for solo or small chamber ensemble.)
  • Anders Hillborg – Peacock Tales – The original version is over half an hour long, and the soloist appears masked and unmasked. (There is a Millennium version for clarinet and tape for around 12 minutes.)
  • Meyer Kupferman – Superclarinet, Who? – This one’s a personal favorite of mine since I did my doctoral research on the clarinet compositions of Meyer Kupferman. This piece instructs the soloist: “Taking very tiny steps, clarinetist-dancer makes a halting entrance in total silence. She is wearing an enormous pile of outer and inner garments: at least four hats, one on top of the other, three big old fashioned overcoats, several sweaters and skirts. She looks like an enormous “Bag Lady”…”
  • Luciano Berio – Opus Number Zoo – This piece for wind quintet requires each member to wear a mask of the animal they’re representing.

Since costumed clarinet repertoire falls among the contemporary and avant-garde domain, I’m continuing to research other works in this genre. Please leave a comment or contact me if you have any additions to this list!

Thanks Gregory Oakes for the suggestions and info for this list!

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