Leblanc Clarinets

I have played my LL clarinets since 1981 and no other clarinet I have tried appeals to me. They have a 14.80 bore and I use a Vandoren crystal facing A mouthpiece with a no. 3 reed. Their tuning is excellent however if ever I win the lottery I will probably buy a pair of Opus`s.

Your articles are very interesting.

P.S. Why do people rave about Buffets?

Just returned with my wife from a trip to Montreal to see two of my children, one of whom gave me a new recording of the “Quartet for The End of Time” by Olivier Messiaen, arguably the most beautiful work of this century which includes the clarinet. We listened to it on the way back and it was OK, really quite OK, but little more than that, and certainly it ought to have been. I played and rehearsed that work more than a dozen times and I knew the problems as I listened to them. So, I received your note about Leblancs and Buffets with more than passing interest.

People rave about Buffet clarinets because they have been taught to by their teachers and it has been that way for years.

Most clarinetists in the US orchestras played Buffets, and so they taught their students to play the same thing.

Only in the Boston Symphony were things different. There they happened to play Selmers. Why, I don’t know, but they did, and since I am from Boston and studied there, I was not averse to Selmers, and played them and advertised them and gave clinics on them. They were and are good instruments.

Buffets always played nmore easily, and somehow more sweetly, but not as well in tune and not as evenly, NEVER. In Boston this became part of the education a clarinet player was subjected to: playing evenly, as if all the notes came from the same instrument, a keyboard or something like that. It was a distinct goal with the Boston clarinet student and really was not part of the daily studies elsewhere … where sound, sound, sound, was it and if the sound was not the same as the teacher you were not accepted.

Were the sounds even? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, but the Buffet players always did somehow facilitate the sound they were taught, even or not.

Clarinetists were nuts about that. The students must play the same instrument as the teacher. There was so much rote teaching that the word Buffet was emblazoned in the mind as well as the ear. Was the sound a duplicate of their teachers? More or less, yes. Was the sound of the teachers good? Sometime wonderful, sometimes not.

In the 60s, 70s, 80s and on there was a lot of research done by all of the instrument manufacturers and they came up with some really interesting instruments and some great ones. Better than Buffets? Yes, sometimes tremendously better. Yamaha makes a number of clarinets of different bores which are really great and they are perfectly in tune. More than Buffet? You BET. But Buffet was first and they have come out with some interesting models as well. Good as the OPUS? Not for me, never for me. Those Leblancs were the most sensitive in-tune instruments, period.

Now, here is the rub. I could not have afforded those clarinets new, so I purchased them from the original owner, the first clarinetist of the Kansas City symphony. He loved them too; however he said that he could never be heard above the brass section with the Opus. True or false? I don’t know. I played only chamber music.

However Larry Combs, principal in Chicago and an old, old friend, plays Opus as well. He is always heard, and you can take that to the bank, just the way he takes his Chicago money to the bank.

These days, clarinetists play on everything and if a teacher makes you play Buffets, it is for his ego and little to do with music.

Hope this helps


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