I was first informed about Mr. Hawkins and his abilities with clarinet mouthpieces from a professional player who recommended them for trial.
Prior to writing to him I purchased an “s” model and found it to be excellent. The qualities I admired were the center of sound which seemed to be very much within the middle of the spectrum and the ease and response of articulation.
The blanks that he uses are made in Germany and made by Zinner. They have a rather lovely sound, one from the blank itself, noticeable immediately.
The Zinner mouthpiece is supposedly tuned to 442, however I did not find this to be the case, working very well at 440.(barrel out perhaps 1-2 mm.)
Following my original trials, I checked his website and found that he teaches at the Oberlin College Conservatory and frequently plays with the Cleveland Orchestra.
He has a number of his own recordings on his website and I was able to listen to much of the standard repertoire. I found these samples to be very well played and was even more impressed when it was determined that all of the examples were played on Legere reeds.
Since I believe there to be a reed out there somewhere that has some of the facets of this reed, but with a more cane-like quality, I was truly impressed.
I thought the sound a bit diffuse, but still it was very good indeed. In subsequent emails, we established a rapport and I found him to be very personable, interesting and a wonderful musician.
Because I had such interest in playing on a plastic reed which had less problems than cane, I requested a new facing, the”R”. I found it to have some of the same qualities of the “S”.but with differences in response, however I could not play Legere reeds on his “R” mouthpiece , any more than I could with the “S”, which incidentallly is the mouthpiece upon which Larry Combs plays in the Chicago Symphony.
So, while interested in the man and his deep understanding of mouthpieces, as well as his finishing which is extraordinary, I could not play these Legere reeds on them.( or any other synthetic, and Legere is by far the best.)
One day in preparation for a concert, I tried a cane reed on my new Hawkins “R” and I was astounded, for the mouthpiece absolutely came to life. Almost a “bells and whistles” reaction on my part. Without trying to go into impressions, I can truthfully say that this is the best mouthpice I have played in about 25 years, ever since my crystal mouthpiece was broken by student at the intermission of a chamber music concert. An update on this “R” Hawkins: I find it to be the most responsive I have played and it has more real depth to the sound as I hear it. You know when you play the open “g” on your horn and it sounds thin? Well, this “R” doesn’t sound thin, even if the reed is perhaps unbalanced. That makes two reasons I like it and the third is that there is a better response in the altissima register, more even and rather effortless. Those are 3 reasons for my enthusiasm. Really an excellent nd most responsive and even tool, a real help.
For me, it far supasses any Van Doren mouthpiece, (and I have tried most of their mouthpieces), or really any of the others. He has a splendid eye and his finishing is a study in pefect symmetry.
Using cane, they are as reed-friendly a mouthpiece as I have ever played and I give them my highest recommendation. The “S” and this newer “R” mouthpiece are worthy of any clarinetists consideration.
Lately I have been having a wonderful time playing the C clarinet. Really, if you have not, try one, (I will talk about the brand later), and you will really enjoy. But the Hawkins R mouthpiece, the same one I use all the time, (even at night) plays terrific on my C. I am playing the Schubert Sonatinas, Opus 137 for Violin and Piano. What a great priviledge to play this lovely music in the correct key. I had played the first one on Bb years ago, but on the C it seems more beautiful, almost as nice as if written by Schubert for this very C clarinet. Or maybe Richard Hawkins.