Reginald Kell, an original

Reginald Kell was a hero to all young clarinetists, and while we did not necessarily end up with his conclusions in performance, Kell served an innovative and musical purpose.

The idea of taking Reginald Kell and decimating his clarinet playing and interpretive skill is oversimplified and in rather poor form.
Whatever Reginald Kell did was interesting and musical, and while it may not have been accurate he played with a certain sense of style which got your attention, especially mine and every clarinet student at the time.
Kells playing taught all of us much even if was only after discussion. The Stravinsky as played by Kell was wildly innovative, imaginative, though not accurate at all. Accurate to what? To exactly what actually was printed on the page of whatever edition you had.
So too, were all of his recordings, his wild liberties creating the stuff of what is real discernment on the part of the honest clarinetist.
It seemed to have been discussed only amongst students, not so much with teachers who dismissied him out of hand.

As far as the Stravinsky Three Pieces are concerned I studied them carefully with both Rosario Mazzeo and with someone even closer to Stravinsky, Mademoiselle Nadia Boulanger. She was the teacher of Aaron Copland and many others and one of the great teachers of and in music . She was extremely close to Stravinsky.
There are no jokes about anyones playing in the composition of the first piece, in which every breath and pratically every eighth is meticulously given.
Mademoiselle Boulanger taught me to play it all in time and she characterized the first movement as almost “a series of variation on, “the Volga Boatman” With that in mind it simplified its meaning as being distinctly Russian, which it is, and to be played exactly in tine, save for the last statement, as I recall.
The second movement also in strict time as Stravinsky marked, but with that little dance in the middle section having its own forward rhythm, to be played in a quiet playful manner.
Finally, the last allegro is in the most strict time possible, breaths and all, except for the last measures, all leading to the Bb, tenuto, and then playfully to the grace at the octave, as has been stated here.

Reginald Kell was a great inspirational figure of his time and his contribution was that he showed us that total accuracy comes first.(It became preferable to his purple phrasing) and when that is achieved, perhaps then within those parameters. leeway is possible. But only then.

Sherman Friedland


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