Henry Sparnaay | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Henry Sparnaay 

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One doesn't generally think of the bass clarinet as anything more than bottom-end reinforcement for a wind section within a larger ensemble, and certainly not as a solo instrument that can stand on its own. That was before Dutch bass clarinetist Harry Sparnaay came along. Sparnaay has completely rethought the possibilities of the instrument and the result sounds like a combination of the entire woodwind family. With giant register leaps in a single bound, Sparnaay's playing at times resembles that of a stride pianist, so quick and effortless are his extreme rhythmic shifts. But tricks aren't everything, extraordinary though they may be; Sparnaay is also a master musician who brings deep expression to what he plays, regardless of whether it's new music, jazz, or improvisation in a unique style that combines both. Sparnaay's Friday program is an international mix of solo pieces and pieces for bass clarinet and tape, including works by Britain's Frank Denyer and Brian Ferneyhough, Italy's Claudio Ambrosini, Australia's Martin Wesley-Smith and Michael Smetanin, and Japan's Takayuki Rai. Tonight, 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, 1313 S. Wabash; 939-2848. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, 700 University, Evanston. 708-491-5441.

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