Dear Professor Friedland,
Obviously you have played very many different clarinets in your long career. Your logic about what constitutes finding a successful clarinet will be most instructive for those of us who have no intentions of performing in front of others, but rather perform for ourselves as a form of relaxation and self-education . I think the view of a master such as yourself would be really enlightening because I have often observed that the people who achieve the most in any kind of professional field are those who can find a way to make their practice pleasurable and a continuous learning experience.
While living and working in Montreal in the ’80s I encountered several clarinets which were extremely exciting just to hold and certainly to play.
It is very inteeresting to me that the clarinet I discovered was one which was vilified certainly by most players in the Northeast and played by no symphony player. No matter how much publicity was out there, the Leblanc Clarinet had the worst reputation of any, and interestingly enough with no proof ever given. It was simply not an instrument to play, or to buy or to advertise. Earlier in my career, when playing Mazzeo Clarinets, as Principal Clarinet of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the manager of that orchestra was approached by the Leblanc company with a proposition: If I would play Leblanc and the Woodwind Quintet of the Orchestra would be called the Leblanc Woodwind Quintet of the Milwaukee Symphony, there would be a substantial donaton of $25000 given to the orchestra.
Upon being approached , I immediately got in touch with my teacher and mentor, Rosario Mazzeo who write back telling me that it would be a very bad mistake for me to accept such a highly unethical approach, which I subsequently turned down.
Curiously however after leaving that orchestra and moving to Montreal, it was a Leblanc clarinet that finally won my ear. It was a Leblanc L27 presented to me to try from the largest music store at the time in that city. (It is further of interest that the two most reknown clarinetists in the US today both play Leblanc).
I had had the habit of trying every clarinet they had in stock, taking it out for months at a time to examine . I frequently played concerts on all of these instruments. There were many Yamaha clarinets(notably one “62”, a terrific instrument), several Buffets, and several Selmers, the best of which to me the Recital which I especially admired for its even sound and rather rich scale. We called it “the Fat Clarinet” because it was a larger diametered instrument with a narrower bore.
But the best clarinet I played which was certainly the Leblanc L27. First and foremost was the intonation. I simply could not get the tuner to deviate from directly “on pitch” for every single note I would play, including lowest e , throat Bb, open G and simply any note that I’d play, giving me tremendous confidence and also a desire to play the thing constantly which I certainly did. This clarinet also had a smaller key layout which seemed to fit my fingers better than any other, even the Recital. The resistance was perfect.
I had had a somewhat similar feeling with a full Boehm Buffet clarinet which I wish I had kept, however the Leblanc was the favorite. Funny, but I never owned that instrument, just had it in my house for years until finally I gave it back. A lovely instrument and still my feeling are very much with Leblanc as having the best sound ideal of anything I have played. I later purchased a set of Opus I clarinets which were absolutely lovely, but did not have the resonance of the L 27,or perhaps they did.
Since then I purchased a set of LLs at a remarkable price which are terrific and really surpass the others and presently I am playing a Selmer 10s purchased in 1997 in Sweden. Finally I have to say that I love playing them all, every single instrument. It is just a pleasure and has been that way for the past fifty or 60 years.
I guess like many I can be called obsessed with the clarinet. Thank you for asking.