Dear Mr. Friedland
A question about some Leblanc models.
I’ve seen the Leblanc L7 and LL models variously described as “professional”
or as “intermediate” models. Then there’s the Pete Fountain model, which
always seems to be called “professional”.
For example, I’ve seen an LL described as a “professional” model, selling
for nearly twice as much as another LL that was described as an
“intermediate” model. Apparently the label suggests a different quality and
price. Same clarinet model, different description.
I have an L7 and love it. It’s hard to imagine where to step “up” to
another Leblanc. On the other hand, suppose I wanted to look for a “better”
Leblanc (if there is one). It’s confusing to see the same models getting
those various descriptions.
Maybe that’s just a reflection on the opinions of the people who own or sell
the instruments — not on the instruments themselves.
Regardless of the labels folks give, is there any significant difference
between those models?
Many thanks to you for your outstanding forum, and for your insight into
this instrument we love.
Thank you for your question concerned with Leblanc clarinets. There is a much more serious underlying question as you mention, which is what is meant by “professional”, or “Intermediate”, or “step-up”, or “top of the line” when associated with the buying and sale of clarinets.
Most of these terms are odious to say the least and they are also meaningless in most cases.
The Leblanc Clarinet made in Paris with that name stenciled on the body is in general a very good clarinet with special care paid to tuning, finish and general playability, made of aged grenadilla wood, and attractively packaged as well. They can be played professionally and are frequently, though not by most of the professional clarinet world in the US, who play Buffet , not as well made or well tuned or as well finished as is the Leblanc, and more expensive. The Leblanc VSP, also made in France, is an excellent clarinet, but is most frequently called intermediate. I have one, purchased inexpensively which is as good as the Opus.
Mostly, to your question of the quality of Leblanc clarinets made in France, they are all excellent, and mostly the differences are when they were manufactured, the yearly labeling chosen, except for the Pete Fountain model, which has a slightly larger bore and is more expensive as well. The “Dynamic” Series are about equal to the Pete Fountain clarinet, but no longer made.
Right now, I do not know what the condition of the franchise in the US is, however Leblanc is still functioning in France and always did make an excellent instrument, with a rather distinctive response and excellent finishing. I liked my L27 because the fingerbard, so to speak, seemed smaller than my Selmers.The tuning also, was superior.
The rest is all sales talk, and there is no such thing as a “step-up” mouthpiece or clarinet. The cheap instruments are the cheap instruments, mass-produced, badly fitted keys and not very careful finishing regardling tuning and general manufacture.
There is a clarinet mouthpiece made by Clark Fobes, the “Debut”, cost about thirty dollars which is as good as anything out there, depending of course on the particular one you purchase. In general is lovely, however the production suggests some discernment when picking the particular mouthpiece. This goes for any mouthpiece made, for all are different. Sales talk is just that.
Leblanc was reviled and denigrated in the US for years and years. All this time, it was one of the best clarinets out there.This hatchet job was achieved by the industry, advertisement and teachers.
Thank you for writing. I hope I have answered your questions.
Best wishes for the New Year.