The melodies of Rossini are really very special. Throughout his music, he takes them and manipulates them in amazing ways. In each of Rossini’s operas – perhaps especially in The Barber of Seville – one of his great talents as a composer was to match melody to instrument, using the strengths of both halves to create an incredible whole. He also had an uncanny ability to share melodies between instruments, bouncing them around an orchestra like it was the most natural thing, all the while teasing out huge changes in phrasing.
In his Introduction, Theme and Variations, I’ll be playing an operatic introduction – one that sings – followed by a theme and five variations. For me, the piece has a little bit of everything. The first theme is very funny and light, yet a variation of it, in a minor key, is intimate and incredibly beautiful. The phrasing too is so varied. The main theme is short and highly articulated, but he twists it into a very legato (smooth) section, or a long, song-like section, or the lively, acrobatic finale.
One of the clarinet’s greatest strengths is its flexibility. It can be very soft or raucously loud (or anything in between), all played with a huge variety of colour. Rossini understood extremely well what it offered to music, and how best to extract it. He could take a melody and really exploit the flexibility of the clarinet to add something extra to it. The last variation in this piece, for example, is truly extraordinary.
I haven’t yet had the chance to play Introduction, Theme and Variations with an orchestra and I’m so excited to do so. In previous concerts I’ve played with a pianist, but with an orchestra you have so many extra inflections from all the other instruments and huge variations in volume. To play with an orchestra, you have to expand everything you have done previously and think again about just what kind of colours Rossini is asking for.
Jordi performs Rossini’s Introduction, Theme and Variations in our Free Rush Hour Concert, 6.00pm, Thursday 14 July at St John’s Waterloo, and at the Anghiari Festival.
Find out more about Jordi Juan-Perez here.