Muczynski: Duos, Op. 24 Program Notes

Robert Muczynski (1929-2010) was an American pianist, teacher, and composer who earned his BM and MM from DePaul University as a student of Walter Knupfer (piano) and Alexander Tcherepnin (composition). As a pianist, he made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1958 with a program of his own works. As an educator, he served as long-time composer-in-residence and chair of the composition department at the University of Arizona. As a composer, his Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 14 (1961), Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1970), and Time Pieces for clarinet and piano (1984) have all become a part of the standard repertoire. The hallmarks of his compositional style are accented, rhythmically-driven fast movements, often in irregular meters, and slow movements with unpretentious lyricism.

Muczynski’s Duos, Op. 24 for flute and clarinet have a copyright date of 1991, however, the opus number precedes that of the version of this work for two flutes (Op. 34, 1974). The six short pieces included in this collection of duos are the epitome of Muczynski. The first movements features a melodic flute obligato over a slowly ascending clarinet line. The second movement is a jaunty mixed meter dance that alternates between 5/8, 2/8, and 6/8. The flute and clarinet trade expressive melodic lines in the third movement before joining together for one measure at the dynamic peak. The fourth movement explores the juxtaposition of unison passages with rhythmically complex simultaneous simple and compound subdivisions of the beat. The fifth movement is perhaps the most lyrical and expressive of the collection. The final movement is an accented, molto perpetuo stream of eighth notes that race to an exciting conclusion.

The recording of this work that I would personally love to hear is from the 1984 LP “Lurie & Baker Play Muczynski” featuring Mitchell Lurie on clarinet and Julius Baker on flute. This recording is rather difficult to come by, though it is available on WorldCat from the University of British Columbia Library. There is an exceptional recent recording of this work on YouTube of Christopher Chaffee (flute) and Chris Grymes (clarinet) performing this work at Wright State University, and it has become my favorite performance of this piece.

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