Clarinet-Piano Pieces and a bit more …

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I have enjoyed following your responses to the many who have
written you asking for your advice. I have several questions that
I hope you may be able to help me with. I have played clarinet for
many, many years (over 40 now). At one time, I considered perhaps
making it my career, but have ended up playing primarily for
enjoyment. I play a Buffet R-13 which I have had since 1969 and
enjoy it very much. I recently acquired an older Selmer “Centered
Tone” horn in very nice shape which I play sometimes – it has a
very nice tone, a little bigger than the R-13 and I think probably
needs a mouthpiece with more resistance. Anyway, to my questions:

1. My wife plays piano very well (she is self-taught), but has
found many of the piano parts that accompany clarinet solos to be
very difficult – we have tried the Mozart Concerto, both Brahms
Sonatas, Stamitz, Rossini, and the Weber, but they are a little
too much for her at this point. My question is, are there some
good clarinet/piano pieces in the repertoire that would be
enjoyable/challenging for me to play but a bit easier on my poor
wife the piano player?

2. I was wondering if you could comment on barrels. I have seen
things written about, for example, the Moennig and Chadash
barrels and the difference that they can make in tone quality.
The “David Hite” website, for example, has a fair amount on the
Moennig barrels. What is your opinion of them? I use the standard
barrel which came with my R-13. I have never experimented with a
different barrel except in matters of tuning the horn.

3. Can you recommend a book or method for working on clarinet
reeds? After many years of playing, I still don’t feel that I
know very much about reeds, reed choice, reed/mouthpiece
combinations, etc. etc. It still seems to be something of a
mysterious art.

4. Do you have any recommendations on mouthpieces? I have an old
David Hite mouthpiece which has “sd” on it (I believe). I got it
from my teacher (Naomi Drucker) and it has been my mouthpiece
through the years. I have tried various others – the Vandoren
B-45, 5RV-Lyre, and some of the Selmer mouthpieces (like HS*, E,
and HS**) but have not found one that I like as much as the Hite.
However, the Hite is not perfect – it has a tendency to close off
because the tip opening is not very large – I usually use a
Vandoren “hard” reed and shave it down just a bit. Once I get the
tone about right, I’m back to the problem of “choking” off the
higher notes. This is where I get into the reed/mouthpiece
“search for the perfect reed and/or mouthpiece” that everyone
seems to go through. I have e-mailed the Hite address several
times asking for their advice but have never received an answer.
Any suggestions?

At any rate, I would appreciate any light you can shed on any of
these matters. Again, I have enjoyed very much your responses to
the other questions posed to you in the past and hope to hear
from you.

Thank you very much,

Sincerely,

Jim

Thanks very much for your provocative letter. It has lots of very
interesting points and will try to answer all your questions.

As far as Moennig barrels are concerned they are fine and will not
so much as change the tone but make the throat and “break”
registers a bit more stable. They cost more than an ordinary
barrel, but they have a rubber insert which aids in the stability
I’m told. But there are some R-13s that have Moennig barrels as
standard barrels that come with the instrument, although I think
that may have been after 1969. The barrel maelstrom is just that
in a teacup, but clarinetists being the obsessive-compulsive type
(that is the nature of the beast) love to piddle and paddle with
these things.

I have found the best barrel for me has been the one that you can
elongate or shorten for reasons of pitch, a terrific idea if you
play in many places, or just a good idea to have. They do not
really sound bad at all, and there is nothing like the feeling of
having some control in a cold or a hot hall, or piano. I have used
mine and changed it during concerts, and you can do it. The
intonational control is worth more than the perception of timbre
which varies more than is imaginable, so dependent it is on the
amount and quality of the neurosis of the player. The Selmer
clarinet always gave the perception of having a “bigger” tone, but
was always less stable in pitch than the R-13, and they tend to
spread sometimes. If you do not know the Selmer C-85 mouthpiece,
give them a shot because they provide viable resolutions to some
of the problems of the Selmer clarinets; indeed all clarinets.

Your poor dear of a wife! The pieces you list are amongst the most
difficult for the pianist, the Mozart and Brahms are impossible to
play and are much more difficult for the pianist than the
clarinetist. Any concerto should be careful scrutinized because
frequently the arrangement may be quite difficult. There are many,
many pieces that are very satisfactory, even great musically, and
playable for the pianist.

The Vaughan Williams Folk Songs are really beautiful. The Finzi
Bagatelles are the same. The English have a ton of pianistically
accessible pieces that are quite delightful. The Honneger Sonatine
is a bit difficult, but very pleasant to play. The sonatas of
Poulenc and Milhaud have their difficulties, but nowhere near that
of the Brahms. Gabriel Pierne has a “Canzonetta” that has always
been a favorite of mine, so very pretty it is. There are two
accessible Stamitz Sonatas, and of course the Saint Saens Sonata,
again some of which is a bit difficult, but again not like the
Brahms.

Well this has not meant to be a repertoire list, but at least
there are some around which your wife should be able to navigate.
Good luck and thanks again for your note.

Most sincerely

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