There was a moment of perfect silence after clarinetist Todd Palmer finished playing "Marietta's Lied" from Korngold's "Die Tote Stadt" in his Sunday afternoon recital. Palmer dedicated this warm, sentimental aria transcription, the first of three encores, to the memory of his mother and played it with the rich tone and polished phrasing that had been his from the beginning of the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater concert.
But most of all, in this work -- as in pieces by Debussy, Ives, John Mayer and Joseph Horovitz -- it was Palmer's ability to find the long line of the music and let it breathe that was most powerful. After the last notes of the Korngold faded, it seemed almost too much to clap, and we all sat absolutely still for a few seconds.
The Korngold was all the more striking in a recital that was for the most part anything but somber. Few instruments move as winningly from lyricism to suave humor and even sarcasm as the clarinet, and Palmer, a Hagerstown, Md., native, excelled in an exceptionally varied program, running all the way from Debussy to Benny Goodman.
The Ives Sonata No. 3, written for violin and piano and arranged by Palmer for clarinet, is a pretty eclectic musical feast all by itself. Palmer and pianist Carol Archer brought great sensitivity to the ensemble. The Ives was nicely complemented by Poulenc's droll and elegant Sonata for Clarinet and Bassoon, which Palmer and guest performer Robert Wagner delivered with a soft, witty touch.
Other notable works in the program, the last in this year's Young Concert Artist Series, included British-Indian composer Mayer's "Raga Music for Solo Clarinet" and Palmer's transcription of a Reynaldo Hahn song, "If my verses had wings." Though Palmer's vibrato occasionally seemed a bit tight in the exposed slow moments, his tone was always golden and his pitch absolutely accurate and there was charm in large supply.