Chicago Clarinet Classics / John Bruce Yeh

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John Bruce Yeh, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s celebrated assistant principal clarinet and solo E-flat clarinet for over 40 years, headlines a program of lyrical and engaging chamber and solo works by noteworthy Windy City composers of the past and present, including three world-premiere recordings. Yeh, with Patrick Godon, the Chicago Symphony’s principal keyboardist, and freelance clarinetist Teresa Reilly, who performs with the CSO at home and on tour, presents mid-20th-century works by Alexander Tcherepnin and Leo Sowerby, a late-century work by Robert Muczynski, and recent pieces by Stacy Garrop, Shulamit Ran, and clarinetist Reilly.

World-premiere recordings include the album’s centerpiece, Sowerby’s witty and inventive 1938 Sonata for Clarinet and Piano; Ran’s tender, heartfelt Spirit for solo B-flat Clarinet; and Reilly’s The Forgiveness Train for two clarinets, an insistently rhythmic, pandemic-fueled dreamscape about personal peril amid natural beauty. Garrop’s dramatic Phoenix Rising — a world-premiere recording of the version for clarinet — depicts the fiery death and triumphant rebirth of the Phoenix of Greek and Egyptian myth. The album opens with Tcherepnin’s vivacious Sonata in one movement for clarinet and piano. Muczynski’s Time Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, a popular repertoire staple, brings the program to a brilliant close.


John Bruce Yeh, longtime clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has commissioned various contemporary works, several of which are heard here. One, Teresa Reilly’s The Forgiveness Train, is a duet for two clarinets, in which Yeh is joined by Reilly, his spouse. It is quite an effective bespoke work, with constantly absorbing contrasts in tone between the two clarinets. Yeh is also persuasive in the demanding Spirit for solo B flat clarinet of Shulamit Ran. There are older works, including the Time Pieces for clarinet and piano, Op. 43, of Robert Muczynski, the only piece in the whole bunch that has any kind of currency on the concert stage. Listeners may be surprised to note the presence of the Clarinet Sonata in one movement of Alexander Tcherepnin on the program, but he lived and taught in Chicago in his later years. Is there a consistent Chicago thread connecting these composers? Maybe not, but the program has a certain consistency, and it is beautifully played by one of the world’s leading orchestral clarinetists.

-- (James Manheim)

John Bruce Yeh (b. 1957) is now the longest-serving clarinetist in CSO history, so it is not surprising that a series of events including being asked by the Chicago-based Cedille label about recording Leo Sowerby’s Wind Quintet would eventually lead to this album.

In the course of researching Sowerby, Yeh discovered his Sonata, a large, four-movement work that forms the centerpiece of this album. It is a solidly entertaining work; given that it was first published in 1944. While doing his research, Yeh next discovered the Tcherepnin Sonata, the sprightly little piece that leads off the program with a burst of joyous energy.

Although the whole album is enjoyable, especially if you are happen to be as big a fool for a clarinet as I am other highlights include the three pieces by women composers: Stacy Garrop’s colorful and evocative Phoenix Rising, in which Yeh is able to produce some startling tones from his instrument; Shulamit Ran’s Spirit, dedicated to a dear friend of the composer and expressing a wide range of emotion; and Teresa Reilly’s Train of Forgiveness, on which Yeh and Reilly play together, clearly enjoying the opportunity.

Don’t let the fact that this is music from the 20th and 21st centuries from composers with names that may be unfamiliar give the idea that this music must be harsh and forbidding. It is, rather, music that is enticing to the ear. Not syrupy sweet, but rather thoughtful and enduring. There are liner notes with helpful essays on the music and background information about the performers, and the sonics are up to the usual high Cedille standard.

-- Classical Candor

Product Description:

  • Release Date: March 10, 2023

  • Catalog Number: CDR 218

  • UPC: 735131921824

  • Label: Cedille

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Stacy Garrop, Robert Muczynski, Shulamit Ran, Teresa Reilly, Leo Sowerby, Alexander Tcherepnin

  • Performer: John Bruce Yeh, Patrick Godon, Teresa Reilly


  1. Clarinet Sonata in One Movement, Op. posth.

    Composer: Nikolai Tcherepnin

    Performer: John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet), Patrick Godon (Piano)

  2. Phoenix Rising

    Composer: Stacy Garrop

    Performer: John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet)

  3. Clarinet Sonata

    Composer: Leo Sowerby

    Performer: John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet), Patrick Godon (Piano)

  4. Spirit

    Composer: Shulamit Ran

    Performer: John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet)

  5. The Forgiveness Train

    Composer: Teresa Reilly

    Performer: John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet), Teresa Reilly (Clarinet)

  6. Time Pieces, Op. 43

    Composer: Robert Muczynski

    Performer: John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet), Patrick Godon (Piano)