The following is in response to a question concerning aclarinet listed for sale on Ebay, a Stubbins configuration manufactured by Leblanc in the 1950s
Dear Mr. Friedland
I was very very VERY tempted to own this clarinet, but I guess i took the reasonable way out and politely stepped back. I know that you have had experience on selmer clarinets, but i was just wondering if you know anything about the Leblanc Stubbins clarinets?
All I know is that I dug through the clarinet bb board forums and
discovered some thing about them.
I was Fascinated about the open Bb keywork system, and the possibility of removing the stuffy Bb key is really something amazing. but I wonder, if the keywork opened up the Bb stuffiness, why was it never applied to modern clarinets? Was it a cost effect issue? Is it possible to shed some light on this unknown clarinet?
Hi my friend:
Not only did you take the reasonable way out, but the intelligent way as well.
Why anyone plays one of these or any other configuration or juxtaposition of pieces of metal on a wooden pipe is beyond me, and I speak from long experience, for I played the Mazzeo System Clarinet, with the full Boehm configuration, everything , heavy , low ebs on both sides of the instruments, a cofiguration wherein you could play a G#-C# with the right hand little finger, heavy, and all the stuff you can imagine, and I know that I achieved the most with it that was possible at the time and I played everything on it, but finally I play regular Boehm system and find that I can do more with less, have much less trouble with varia and being in general able to do everything I need to do and to have the freedom to color fingerings with regard to timbre and to pitch which cannot be done on that system of fingerings or Stubbins , to which you refer when you talk of Leblanc or the Marchi system, made also by Selmer, (which still looks gorgeous to me, because there is no keyworkmanship that is better than Selmer), when you speak of a French maker.
Do not go near anything that purports to give you something unless you know exactly what you are getting with the gift.
Or as they say, more and more these days, “Be careful what you wish for”.
I have written many pieces on the Mazzeo System Clarinet and I know the Stubbins and most of the other stuff, and I still grieve for the Macintyre Brothers who lost all their money on their clarinet and simply ceased to exist. I do not know what possesses anyone to have the temerity to think they can improve on what is still an instrument which was made and came to fruition in the Classical Period in music history, really made for that period of time and still uses the same basic ways of playing, and plays by and large the same music.
Many years ago while a grantee of the Rockefeller award for New Music, I was part of a group of people who did nothing but play new music. I received a phone call from a certain person, a violinist and composer, let us call him PZ, for those are his initials.
He said, “I need a table of fingerings for every noise you can make on the clarinet” Not fingerings mind you, but noises, you know those things we teach small children to avoid.
He, as a composer wanted a listed of these squeaks so that he could employ said noises in contemporary composition.
I once got into a horrendous fight with none other than Gunther Schuller (at Tanglewood) because I refused to take the mouthpiece off my clarinet and sing somesong into the clarinet as part of a piece of new music. I called it nihilistic, and let us say that I was “persona non grata” at Tanglewood, at least while Gunther was there. Big deal, right? No, not at all, my name still apears in Musical Quarterly stating that I played more new Music more works as than anyone else those summers
The only other person who heard the argument was Donald Martino, (the
composer of “A Set for Clarinet” and others of its ilk.) Donald simply stuck his fingers in his ears in a kind of “Hear no evil” kind of gesture.
Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony and scene of many many fond performances and fights, remains at least in my mind and you have now read about it, but there is a point, and that is, please do yourself a favor and stay away from all of this complication out there.I learned more fingerings from playing the three-keyed classical clarinet.
Why? Because there was no other way to play them and they work and I still use them every day I play All so-called alternate or trill fingerings are manipulations of the harmonic series which is why they work.
So CW, stay well, and play well, and let these guys rest in peace with their systems and confugurations. Practice is still the only answer to our clarinet problems.