Georges Aperghis' bass clarinet solo Damespiel was commissioned by the Ensemble Musikfabrik, supported by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and dedicated to Carl Rosman.
The title comes from the German for the board game which some of us call draughts and some of us call checkers. Perhaps there’s the vaguest hint of a play on words connecting the title to the music in the manner in which the closing minutes have a low-voiced instrument pretending for quite some time to be a high-voiced one. But perhaps not.
The piece first arrived with lots of octave signs for the last couple of pages, which the publisher was kind enough to fix for me: on the one hand I can’t stand octave signs on the clarinet (the fingerings in one octave have nothing to do with the fingerings in another, it’s not like a piano where you just move your hand a bit to the right), on the other the spare leger lines are an excellent home for the shorthand I use to remind me what my fingers need to do.
For once, there isn’t a particularly enlightening story concerning the genesis of this piece. Georges had wanted to write me a solo for a while; the ensemble had the possibility of commissioning a round of solos for all the members; I told Georges; the piece arrived; I played it. He’s been writing solo pieces for the clarinet longer than I’ve been playing it, so he didn’t particularly need me to show him what a clarinet can do. So there’s nothing particularly newsworthy about the collaboration—except perhaps the very fact that it doesn’t consist of copious dialogue about specificities of the instrument. It’s entirely appropriate that I’ve only just become aware of what Georges said two years ago about the process in an interview with Martina Seeber for BR:
“We have a strange sort of collaboration. He receives the music and works on his part… and when he’s ready, he sends me a recording. I leave him to work on his own, and every time the result is perfect.”
Carl Rosman, September 2020