Three Pieces was commissioned in 1974 by Phillip Rehfeldt and Barney Childs for their Clarinet and Friend series. It was completed in 1975 and has since been widely performed.
The first piece is understated – elliptical, secretive, willful. Spidery, sparse textures of the beginning and end surround a central episode of denser, more tonally-oriented material. The piece embodies altogether a deliberate contrary juxtaposition of clarinet and piano.
The second piece, marked “aggressive, explosive,” is a rough, raucous, bursting movement giving the impression of improvisation, though with the exception of one small section, it is entirely composed. Again there is a deliberate separation of clarinet and piano material. The effect is of two musics occupying roughly the same space but having very little to do with each other. The underlying tonal orientation of the whole piece begins to emerge in the piano writing.
Number three follows with only brief pause. It is a gentle reconciliation of forces leading to a chorale-like passage with clarinet and piano in rhythmic lockstep. There follows a gradual revelation of the key of C# major and a long, ethereal coda for piano alone.
Program notes by David Maslanka.