“The path to this disc of quintessentially American music was long and circuitous; it involves the contributions of many different people over a span of many decades, and it got its start in Spain.
In 2008 Carl Davis conducted several concerts with Spanish clarinetist Joan Enric Lluna as soloist. Davis explains what happened next:
Joan confessed to me, after two inspired performances of the Copland Clarinet Concerto in Pamplona (not during the running of the bulls!) that he loved playing Gershwin songs more than anything else. I immediately thought of the orchestration I had commissioned from the distinguished British composer David Matthews of the transcriptions by Jascha Heifetz of four important numbers from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess for orchestra. But Joan had an even more complex proposal: could I re-arrange these myself for clarinet and string quartet? Definitely a challenge, but a practical one. I returned to the original Heifetz piano version and rapidly arranged the violin part for clarinet, but with an added twist. I thought of joining the movements with brief solo cadenzas which would take the listener from one movement to the next. This is the version recorded here.
Joan Enric Llluna recalls his own role in this transcription: “I was very happy to have this piece in the repertoire, but — like all clarinetists — I thought that it would be good to have ‘more notes’ in the piece. I didn’t need to explain much to Carl — he understood perfectly what I wanted. He presented me with the transitions and some variations that I loved, and we polished them together.”