ln the lnternet age it is increasingly common to have seen or heard a piece of music multiple times without fully registering the performer or composer involved. This is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the performance, but rather an unfortunate consequence of our increasingly fast-paced clicking habits. Many of our readers, myself included, may not know Mihael Paar’s Little Christmas Fantasy by name, but with nearly 20,000 hits on YouTube, many will have seen the composer’s brilliantly virtuosic rendition of his own work flying around various social media sites. lt is not known whether Paar published the work as a direct consequence of the video’s online popularity, but whatever the reason, this is a sensational, seasonal showpiece of considerable worth and a welcome addition to the repertory.
Croatian-born clarinettist Paar is a young, emerging artist with an ever-growing reputation at home and abroad. His Little Christmas Fantasy takes the well known Christmas tune we all love to hate, Jingle Bells, on a light-hearted, humorous journey through a variety of styles. But if you are looking for a simple little piece to sight-read to your grandma on Christmas day after a few glasses of sherry, be warned, this piece is not for the faint-hearted! Mihael Paar is a performer who possesses a brilliant virtuosic technique, which he aptly demonstrates in his YouTube performance of the work.
The Fantasy uses a number of extended techniques including flutter-tonguing, slap-tonguing, double-tonguing, high notes up to Super C and a particular favourite of mine, an unusual effect where the performer is asked to play and release air outside the mouthpiece simultaneously to create an off the-beat percussion effect. To make the work more accessible, Paar has written a number of ossia lines and has suggested some useful cuts which remove some of the work’s more technically demanding passages, but I would still say that even the abbreviated version of the work is of a grade eight standard, especially if performed at the given tempi.
If you are up for the challenge, I would highly recommend learning the Fantasy in its entirety, along with all the extended techniques Paar incorporates so effectively into the work. lt is a superbly crafted little piece, which is highly effective, texturally interesting, fun to play and is sure to put a Little Christmas smile on your face. Bah Humbug!
© Clarinet & Saxophone, Autumn 2014