From Bach to Benny Goodman

“The lowest notes [of the bass clarinet] are the best… Depending on the way the part is written and the skill of the performer, this instrument’s lower notes can assume the raw timbre of the low notes of the standard clarinet, or the calm, solemn and magisterial tone of some of the organ’s registers.” (Hector Berlioz, Treatise on Instrumentation and Orchestration, 1855)

It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that at one time or another every clarinettist has wanted to play like Benny Goodman and the members of the Scottish Clarinet Quartet are no exception! As well as earning superstar status in the jazz world, Benny Goodman made a name for himself through his recordings of works in the classical repertoire, and through his commissioning of works from such major twentieth century composers as Béla Bartók, Malcolm Arnold and Aaron Copland. Here we commence our programme with the contrapuntal music of another great improviser – J.S. Bach – which lends itself extremely well to arrangements for multiple clarinets, whether straight or – as in the case of Mark-Anthony Turnage and other contemporary composers – rather more twisted. This leads us to Alec Templeton’s well-known Bach Goes to Town!, a prelude and fugue ‘in swing tempo’ which was recorded by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra in 1938, a medley of George Gershwin songs also covered by Benny Goodman, and a SCQ-commissioned arrangement of the King of Swing’s own Four Once More.


  • J.S. Bach / Michael Riessler – Intro/Air
  • Michael Riessler – Bachmachine
  • J.S. Bach – Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659
  • Mark-Anthony Turnage – A Deviant Fantasy (after J.S. Bach)
  • J.S. Bach – Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 532
  • Alec Templeton – Bach Goes to Town!
  • George Gershwin – Oh, Lady Be Good / The Man I Love / Liza
  • Benny Goodman – Four Once More