The Moennig Clarinet Barrel,Ralph McLane and Daniel Bonade,with thanks to David Hite

Hi everyone: Since I am a creature of the 1940s as far as my clariducation is concerned, whenever I read something of Ralph Mclane,the most respected clarinetist who was Principal in Philadelphia until he passed away, I get excited. His sound can only be described as exquisite, yes, better than anyones, and Harold Wright studied with him, so when I read the following, by the very respected David Hite, I feel that my readership would be interested in reading it.

“Hans Moennig’s shop in Philadelphia was the center for “state of the art” woodwind repair in the U.S from the late 1930’s through the early 1980’s. Mr. Moennig worked with virtually every major principal clarinetist in the U.S. Much of his work was quite innovative. Not only did he set the industry standard for repadding and key adjustments, he also took great interest in adjusting the acoustics of the instrument: he reshaped tone holes for better intonation and more even scale; he adjusted the bore if it was incorrect; and he fabricated clarinet barrels when needed from his supply of suitable wood.
During the late ’40s, Ralph McLane, then principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was a frequent visitor to the shop. Known for his wonderful rich tone, Ralph always wanted his instrument to be better, and together he and Moennig experimented with a variety of bore measurements for barrels. McLane would spend hours in Moennig’s shop testing, comparing, and listening critically. (I have heard that McLane’s favorite testing passage was the Brahms Lullaby or a simple tune like Rock-a-bye Baby.)

The outcome of this “trial and adjustment” experimentation was barrel specifications which Moennig reproduced. One by one, clarinetists who came into his shop adopted these barrels and used them exclusively.

After quite a few years as the demand continued to grow, the Buffet company made a Moennig barrel available as an accessory item. Although these barrels were close to Moennig specifications, they were not ideal because of variations in production or changes due to wood instability. Critical players looking for barrels with true Moennig bores had to depend on knowledgeable repairmen with correctly tapered reamers to check and adjust their barrels on a custom basis. Presently, this is still the case.”

Thank you David Hite.

Of course, there are now at least 15 to 25 more barrels available on the market today promising everything from the first clarinet job on the moon to ….whatever.
Chadash is the one distributed by Buffet, describing uncannily adjusted french reamers (sounds risque), but of course not matched to anything but ordinary buffet clarinets.
They all do or attempt to do the same things as Moenning,(thatis to say , gently narrow the taper of the barrel from top to bottom) with slight variations, which incidentally speaks to the wide variance in the quality of the new Buffet Clarinet, an accepted fact by the cognescenti of the business
For those of you who are interested I have received the following reply concerning availability of recording of both Ralph McLane and Daniel Bonade, both available from Amazon:

“You wrote recently that any time you read something of Ralph McLane, you
get excited. I’m hoping what I tell you will excite you, then! My former
clarinet teacher, Larry Guy, recently finished compiling and editing a CD that contains excerpts from the pieces recorded while Mr. McLane was in the Philadelphia Orchestra. The CD is called “The Artistry of Ralph McLane,” produced through Boston Records, and it’s available at among other places.
I’ll never forget the lesson when my teacher first played me a recording
of Ralph McLane playing the beautiful solos in Pines of Rome; it was as
if it was the first time I heard the full potential of the clarinet. It
was a true inspiration. I am very grateful to have had a teacher who
made me listen to recordings of the masters of the past, for it has
enriched my appreciation for the clarinet, especially the potential for a beautiful sound.
I hope this e-mail finds you well, and hope you enjoy the CD, if you do not already own it.
I would suggest that all who can afford themselves of these records do so just to hear what the “sound ideal” was in the 30s and 40s from perhaps the two most revered exponents of the sound.
best as always, sherman


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