It is unusual for student works to make it into a composer’s mature catalogue. Yet Clara Iannotta’s Al di là del bianco – composed while she was studying with Alessandro Solbiati at the Milan Conservatory – shows strikingly how defined her musical and thematic preoccupations were even at this early stage. The title – ‘To the white beyond’ – hints at the interest in ‘afterness’ that was explored in the series of works that culminates in D’après (2012), and that resonates throughout her work of the 2010s. The palette of sounds – set in high registers, equal parts bright tone and sibilant hiss, cut across with string swipes and bass clarinet skronks – is unmistakably hers.
The piece may be heard in four sections. The first is dominated by the bass clarinet’s quietly piercing high B natural and the string trio’s net of glissandi beneath; the second by low bass runs and pizzicato strings (whose players also vocalise at this point). In the third section these opposing ideas appear to be resolved in sustained string and clarinet chords, although in their buzzing harmonics these sounds appear to be splitting themselves apart. So it is that the clarinet runs return, this time developing into a duo with the cello. This continues until, just as the work’s centre of gravity seems about to shift to somewhere entirely unexpected, it is abruptly cut off.
Al di là del bianco was written for and first performed by the soloists of Ensemble Multilatérale in 2009.
© Tim Rutherford-Johnson