I always enjoy reading your web site and have found many helpful suggestions. I am writing to you now because I am curious to know your opinion about the differences between various models of the same make of clarinet, most specifically Leblanc clarinets, one of which I am thinking about buying within the next couple of months. Is there really such a great difference between, say, the Opus, the Concerto, the Esprit and the Sonata clarinets, or is the rather big difference in price between these different models just some kind of marketing ploy? One clarinet maker I spoke to some time ago seemed to be of the opinion that the difference between various models of the same make is not nearly as big as the price difference seems to indicate, and that clarinet makers do this only because there’s a market for it, and that it’s at the top end of the market where they make the biggest share of their profits.
I am an amateur clarinettist, probably at the mid-intermediate level, and at present I am playing a Buffet E11 B flat clarinet. It might seem logical to upgrade to a Buffet R13, but I am not so sure. I am considering a Leblanc clarinet because I have read many reviews that praise these clarinets, especially their good intonation and evenness across registers. What I am looking for in a clarinet is that it should be easy to blow (little resistance), that it should play in tune across all registers and that the tone is clear and centered. I know from experience that the choice of mouthpiece is a very important factor as well, and I am using a Vandoren B45 at the moment, which I am reasonably happy with. I presume that Leblanc pro clarinets come with proper quality mouthpieces. The Opus model is probably a bit too expensive for me, so I am thinking maybe the Concerto model would be suitable. There’s also something called Pete Fountain Big Easy B flat clarinet from Leblanc, which looks interesting, but it doesn’t seem to be available where I live (in the UK). Your comments on the above would be most appreciated. Thanks very much in advance for your help.
Below please find the descriptions of their various high-end models of clarinet in their own Leblancanese
“The next logical step in the evolution of the Leblanc artist line, the remarkable Concerto II offers the same rich, expressive tone and ease of play as the original Concerto model, but with the added advantage of a revolutionary keywork design based on that of the highly acclaimed Opus II model introduced in 2001. Its gracefully sculpted keys lie perfectly under the fingers for increased dexterity and endurance, and numerous enhancements, such as its adjustable bridge mechanism and E/B and F#/C# keys, save trips to the repair shop. The Concerto II was designed in collaboration with jazz legend Eddie Daniels.
Leblanc offers the “Opus II” clarinet, designed in collaboration with Larry Combs. Based on the highly acclaimed Opus acoustic, this instrument provides the rich, dark sound and playing ease you’ve come to expect from the Leblanc line of professional clarinets. Its beautifully sculpted keywork is as pleasing to the eye as to the touch, and numerous enhancements, such as its adjustable bridge mechanism and E/B and F#/C# keys, save trips to the repair shop. Larry Combs says, “The Opus II has redesigned keywork that is ergonomically superior, decreasing muscle tension and stress. Ultimately, it may extend a player’s career.”
( The player must however, get a job, in order the have a career…or?))
The newest Pete Fountain model is the embodiment of the rich musical landscape of the city for which it was named. Pete collaborated with Leblanc to produce numerous design enhancements that give the Big Easy even greater flexibility, more accurate intonation and better note-bending ability than its acclaimed predecessors. Players will find that this model sounds as good on the symphony stage as it does on Bourbon Street—its unique distribution of overtones allows effortless blending in ensemble playing while also providing a vividly expressive solo voice. Most important, this new Fountain model gives Pete plenty of the famous “fat” tone that has become his trademark. Says Pete, “True to its name, I find this horn easy to play, and it has a fantastic scale line from bottom to top. I don’t even to have think about it—this clarinet just sings.”( I wonder if it sings under water)
Crafted at the Leblanc facility in La Couture-Boussey, the Rapsodie is a further example of Leblanc’s dedication to quality. Featured are silver-plated keys, aged grenadilla wood and, most important, expert construction resulting from 250 years of French woodwind-making experience—an incomparable advantage now available to advancing students.
What makes the Rapsodie such an effective performing and learning tool is that it is equipped with Leblanc’s polycylindrical bore design, very similar to that found on Leblanc’s top-line artist models. This sophisticated bore configuration gives the instrument seamless response, consistent tone color and even wind resistance throughout all of its registers.
The Sonata is an entry-level professional instrument and considered to be the best instrument to be offered at its price level. The Sonata is remarkable for its roundness of tone, perfect scale, playing ease and agility. Its extraordinary evenness and “non-quirky” playing characteristics make it ideal for the advanced young player or the professional who doubles but has limited time to devote to the clarinet.”
(I bought a brand-new Sonata without case, arriving in a tightly wrapped plastic bag for 269US. At that price, it seemed perfect)
Curiously, in actuality there are only similar sifferences, bores are almost the same, some key configurations differ, but the biggest differences seem to be the prices. I have always however been a bit more put at my ease with the Opus, of which I owned a pair. The Rhapsodie and Sonata are different in that they are both seemingly tight to my playtest, and I feel that their barrels would need to have perhaps more of a taper.
Mostly then, the competition out there is extrmely fierce. I feel that the Leblanc is the better of the mass-produced clarinets from France.
Why, because the sound is prettier, and if you will, a bit more melifluous. Selmer is the most beautifully finished with the finest keywork. Buffet plays pretty but has rafts of mechanical and intonational problems. Yamaha is the dark horse, a very beautifully playing instrument,of which I have played many.It may be the best clarinet made.
So, dear friend, I hope I have been of some help to you.
best regards, sherman