Several months ago I received an unannounced telephone call from a complete stranger in Toronto. A heavily accented gentleman, he wanted to talk to me about a product he was representing, one that he wished me “to write about”.
It was a plastic reed, however he wished it to be called “synthetic” even though it is plastic.
I related to him my experiences playing such a reed as Principal Clarinetist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra forty years ago. I told him that they vibrated, sounded something like cane but had a nagging ability to stay fresh while my embouchure got tired. Further, I related, I received and had received compliments on my playing until I told someone in the orchestra that I was playing plastic. From that moment on I became a pariah.
We continued talking and he, at the conclusion of our conversation said I was a gentleman and that he would send me a few samples, which he did. I received these reeds with interest and for the last several months I have been trying them(and more than 60 purchased from Music 123) and I feel prepared to give my readers my impression
Oh, yes, I almost forgot, they are called Legere and they are patented by two PHDs in Toronto(in chemistry) . It sems that they are amateur clarinetists and wished to designed something that would allow them to play without worrying about the vagaries of cane.
In essence they did well, for it does play and about as well as any other plastic reed. It plays for longer, costs 5 times as much and they claim that you can get get your money refunded if you are not satisfied, something which I have not found to be the case*.
The question is of course, how do they play?
They play as if designed by two Phds in Chemistry who want to have no further reed worries as amateur clarinetists.
They do play for hours and they play intune (if you do)
Curiously, I heard over and over again by people in authority that yes, you may have to get used to them**, and that you may have to change your mouthpiece for them***, both of these facts I found to be very true.
As to the quality, there are several qualities available: The ordinary Legere which is very bright, brittle is the word a former student of mine, now a respected professional said. I have heard them described as far as the quality is concerned as “bright enough to peel paint” I would have to agree.
There is also another cut available: “The Quebec Cut” which purports to be be less bright, but in my tests I found it to be a thunky quality but certainly less bright. When they get a bit older, they really get very tubby and you have to change them or alternate them.
They do play however, let me stress that.There is also a model with three dots on the butt which plays a bit more like cane,and is darker which of course is the whole problem: they are trying to emulate the sound of cane without the adjustment problems, and actually they wind up with a whole other set of problems. Read the articles, and you will find all of these new problems well described. I did test these reeds for a good six months of playing nothing else in order to attempt to be fair.
Now, there was one absolutely unequivocal compliment, this from a retired Music Educator who had developed mouth cancer. After treatment his mouth is constantly dry and he could not play ordinary cane reeds. I suggested Legere to him and he was very happy because the reed claims to be remain always like a reed that is wet, and for him, it certainly did, and he was very grateful****.
For everyone else I find the comments equivocal: that is to say, “you have to get used to them”. “You may have to change your mouthpiece”
“They are extremely bright”
For me, I find them unexpressive to a remarkable degree. The timbre remains very much like the color of the reed, kind of like skim milk.
A problem remains, that of being able to play or to practise on plastic when one does not wish to use his or her special cane reed.
How in the world does one do that, I would ask?
The subleties of a good cane reed are as full of life as the music of the composers, and subtle responsiveness is totally lacking in these plastic synthetics. If I am playing a sonata by Brahms or Hindemith, a chamber work like the Mozart Quintet or the Messiaen Quatour, how do I practise those works on plastic?
My conclusion? I don’t.
Best holiday wishes,
* I was offered absolutely no refund for any reed which I did not like. I was given an address where to send the reed, with a satement that I would be sent another. This is not the same as money refunded.,
** Just what does “getting used” to a reed mean? If one must get used to plastic, then why not play cane? Plastic is serious. Sorry, but it is dead, and cane is hopefully not, and we all know that it will change with us as we play. The question must be asked? Is that not an advantage?
*** I find this to be the most serious incongruence of all. We seem to spend so much time finding the right mouthpiece, the best response, the best timbre, intonation, etc, and then we are asked to blur all of those subtle things with changing a mouthpiece for a plastic reed?
**** this person has recently written stating that in the end the Legere were too brittle and he just prefers to keep a glass of water by his side while playing on cane”.
One person with whom I spoke told me that she cannot play on the reed for it is too brittle, however every once in a while she will take out her B45(dot) and just play away with no worries at all.
I find all of the above a strong warning to stay away. Or perhaps not.
Step right up! Here is a set of problems to replace the problems of cane?
Happy New Year.