Such Gentle Rapture


for clarinet and piano (2015)




Program Notes

Such Gentle Rapture, for clarinet and piano, takes its title from a somewhat unlikely source: a spy thriller. Barry Eisler’s Redemption Games, to be exact, part of his series of novels featuring the Japanese-American assassin John Rain. It’s rare for me to find titles mid-paragraph in fiction – it’s more common that I find them in poetry or, if in fiction, in chapter headings – but this little phrase was too beautiful to pass by.

The piece is cast in rondo form – Slow-Fast-Slow-Fast-Slow – and makes use of a small handful of musical motives in ever-changing configurations. It’s this kaleidoscopic treatment of the musical materials that transforms what begins as a traditional “recital piece” with melody and accompaniment into a true dialogue between the instruments.

Such Gentle Rapture is part of a larger collection of duos that, although musically unrelated, share a common moment of conception. In 2013, I challenged myself to write thirteen short pieces that feature in turn all of the primary instruments in the standard orchestra (minus percussion, plus saxophone). The first work, Silverpoint, was composed in the month following the premiere of my first orchestra piece, Only Air. Life and other projects put the challenge on hold until August 2014, when I began Such Gentle Rapture before once again being distracted. I tinkered with the piece on and off for several months, adding a handful of measures at a time, until March 2015, when the second half flowed out of me in a matter of two days.

Dennis Tobenski

Dennis Tobenski is a composer of acoustic new music, a vocalist, and a strong advocate for new music and for the interests of living composers.

Dennis’s Only Air, a 20-minute work for high voice and orchestra memorializing the gay teenagers who have taken their own lives in recent years, was commissioned by the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, and has been performed in a chamber version by The Secret Opera in New York and members of the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony.

In February 2016, he and pianist Marc Peloquin released their first album together, a disc of art songs by living American composers titled And He’ll Be Mine.

Dennis also hosts the Music Publishing Podcast and The Composer’s Guide to Doing Business: two music business-centered podcasts aimed at helping composers and performers to learn more about the practical aspects of their careers.

Dennis received his B.Mus. in Vocal Performance and Music Theory & Composition from Illinois State University, and his M.A. in Music Composition from The City College of New York.

His principal teachers have included David Del Tredici, Chester Biscardi, and David Feurzeig. He is a member of the Board of Advisors for Composers Now, and the Board of Directors of the KeyedUp MusicProject. Dennis lives in New York City with his husband Darien Scott Shulman and their cat Pistachio.

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