Articulation in the Organ Symphony

Hello Mr. Friedland:
For a long time I’ve admired your witty, urbane, and to-the-point
responses and wonder how you’d respond to this:

In a few weeks I’ll be playing the St.-Saens Symphony #3(aka I believe the Organ Symphony)in concert. As you probably know, the 1st movement is mostly in 6/8, allegro moderato, taken in a moderate 2. The clarinets have staccato sixteenths through much of the movement, and the articulation isway out of my reach at this point. (the 2nd movement has similarly devilish rapid-tongued articulations too.)
I’m planning, via daily practice and attention on articulation and
coordinating with fingers, to get my articulation speed up hopefully to tempo in time for the concert. I plan to absolutely nail the articulation at a comfortable tempo, working with a metronome, and then inch my way up to speed over the intervening weeks.
Does this sound workable? Do you have anything to add? As long as I’m
investing this much time and attention, should I go whole-hog and learn double-tonguing as well? (If so, do you have a method you could point me to?)
Thanks for any light you can shed, and for your website in general. I come here often for information and really appreciate your insights.

best wishes
Hi D:

In performing the Organ Symphony, I would ask how long the woodwind section has been working together as a section. If this is a one-time shot at the piece with a one-time section, the answer is somewhat different than if working together for a while.
Let us assume you’ve been working together and, that you are at somewhat the same level of instrumental expertise. The first thing to do would be to find out the conductor’s decision on tempo and if it is a dependable decision, that is to say, will he be consistant, especially on the performance? Some ,as you probably know, work efficiently and slowly up until the performance and then their nerves let go and there is no telling where the tempo can end up .
Assuming that consistency is where you are with your conductor and that you have been working together as a section for a while, then you have to establish the section tonguing speed, usually a group decision.Incidentally if double-tonguing or triple-tonguing is easy for you, then go ahead, but the whole section has to execute in the same way because these multiple tonguing things can usually work well only at a few speeds, and if anyone misses , then you are all in “tiger country”, so I would say the decision must be made and with the music in mind, not the tongue, which has killed more musicality than anything. What is important in the entire work is the melody outlined by the eighth notes, the doubling of them is simply
an addition which adds excitement, or not. So, the first thing is to discern what is important and it is overwhelmingly the melody.
Then, you have to decide if you are going to tongue it as written or not, or if several are and several others are not, for it will make no difference s long as the melody comes out.
You must all tongue lightly, and certainly not emphatically, remember that your part is basically secondary, or not really a solo passage.
I find that the first movement is not a difficult one for the tonguing aspect of it, as you long as you do not attempt to blast. Always contain
yourself, support well, and play a bit softer, making sure you are aware of the others playing the same rhythm, even that you can hear them, for if you can, then you are in good shape, if you are too loud you can posibily mess up everything.
In general, this is not a work that a clarinetist looks forward to
apprehensivley.Getting in to the tempo,being with the others, is what you are looking for, and if you achieve that, then you are a part of something, and the parts become more than the whole. Cohesion of tuning and light tonguing will be your answer to a satisfying performance.I hope it goes well.
Sherman Friedland


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