Anthony McGill and Gloria Chien — Here With You (Cedille)
“It’s not just the two of us as musicians together or as musical partners, but Here With You also means that performers are with the audience,” said clarinetist Anthony McGill about his first album as a duo with pianist Gloria Chien. “We're with the listener. We're also with the composer. It’s about us all here with each other, together.”
Fifteen years ago, the duo made a special connection over the music of Johannes Brahms at the [email protected] festival. Chien was a participant and McGill, principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic and artistic director of the Music Advancement Program for young students at the Juilliard School, was her coach.
How did the two of you bond over the music of Brahms?
McGill: “It goes back to our original meeting with Brahms. Pianists and clarinetists throughout history have loved these particular works because these two sonatas by Brahms are some of the greatest chamber pieces ever written.”
Chien: “We talked about doing this album for a long time, and with these pieces. The Brahms and Weber grew with us. We had the space and time to really spend with this music. The Brahms has a timeless quality that almost suspends time.”
What in Brahms’ music do you feel can provide hope for the future?
McGill: “There's something about the way he puts together the narrative in music. The way the harmonies roll by in the storyline that he weaves in his pieces enables you to reflect. In Brahms’ music you hear all of these waves of emotion and expression.
“In the end of the first movement of the second sonata, there's a part where the tension is building. It is then released into this gloriously beautiful soft tranquil section where the harmonies show us the joy and sweetness of life. They are revealed right after the most intense moment of pain and passion.”
How does Jessie Montgomery's composition fit into the concept of the album?
McGill: “We knew that this work, Peace, needed to be on the album to make a stamp. The stamp is a very large mark of where we are in the world. ‘Who are we with? How do we feel?’ It helps to bring people into where we are.”
Chien: “What we all learned we are missing the most is that craving for connection. Here With You, is really a tribute to this time.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.