Name: Maryse Gagnon-Legault
Main Subject: Historical Clarinet
Research Supervisor: Wouter Verschuren
Title of Research: Josef Beer - The complete clarinet virtuoso
What was the importance of the 18th century clarinetist Josef Beer and what made him stand out as the first international virtuoso on the clarinet?
Summary of Results:
The history of music is punctuated by the rise of crucial players who, by force of skills, influenced the work of composers, brought their instrument to technical improvement, pushed the boundaries of musical possibilities or just popularized a specific way of playing. One player did all those things at the end of the 18th century with the use of his instrument, the clarinet. Although mentioned in all history books about the clarinet, today’s scholars have done little research on Josef Beer. However, when looking closer at Beer’s life, repertoire and works, we notice how much he had the chance to be at the right place at the right moment. A known teacher of many of the greatest clarinet virtuosi, such as Michel Yost and Heinrich Baermann, he had influenced a generation of young musicians, popularizing his instrument all over Europe with his extensive tours. But what do we really know about Josef Beer and what made him stand out to become such an influential musician?
This research is about the life and works written for and by this intriguing man, as well as a reflection on the general implication of the soloist in clarinet concerti and how the music he played became extremely personal, by the addition of unique ornamentation and variations of the “skeleton” - the score - made by the composer. Mainly biographical and historical, this work aims also to approach Beer through the performances of works by composers gravitating around him, including his own compositions.
Maryse Legault is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag in historical clarinets in the class of Eric Hoeprich. During her studies in the Netherlands, Maryse has had the opportunity to perform with many ensembles as a soloist, as well as an orchestral and chamber musician, in various countries including France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and Russia. Curious to approach different repertoires, she focuses her research around the role of late 18th-century clarinet soloists and the birth of the pre-romantic German school of clarinet playing. Maryse holds a bachelor degree from McGill University in Montreal and plans to pursue doctoral studies next year in order to deepen her research experience.