Dear Mr Friedland,
First, thanks very much for sharing your wisdom on this excellent site.
In light of a recent post concerning the Reform Boehms of Wurlitzer the following details and personal experience may be of interest to your readers.
I switched to Reform Boehms after playing on Buffets – R13 S1 RC and Festival models – over a span of 25 years.
The Wurlitzers, in common with the bespoke instruments of other German makers, are engineered to a very high standard. The keywork, in finish and fit, is superior to any mass-produced French Boehm clarinet I’ve seen – as it should be, considering the cost of these instruments. They’re built for eternity.
The “improvements” are (on the Wurlitzer model !85):
1. A split function register key/throat Bb mechanism. This helps give a better pinch Bb (I still use resonance fingerings), but a more important benefit is that the register tube can be smaller and positioned so that MOST of the the 12ths are a better in tune than on the French clarinets I’ve played. This mechanism is totally reliable.
2. A beautiful-sounding fork Bb fingering, as well as all the usual options for this note on the French Boehm.
3. A very good F#-G# trill (Carmen!) without the articulated mechanism.
4. A mechanism for fixing the rh middle finger B, F#, D# 12ths – the high D# is not flat.
But it’s swings and roundabouts. In the Wurlitzer you have an instrument which is mechanically more complex (and heavier); you sacrifice the very simple, elegant French Boehm design design for what could be considered minimal “improvement”. As I said, it’s swings and roundabouts.
The Reforms have quirks of their own. Most of the 12ths are better in tune; some are not by a long shot and require a great deal of correction. For instance, on my “A” clarinet B, C, and C# at the top of the clarion are very sharp, which is a nuisance, but you learn to adjust.
One benefit over the French Boehms I’ve played is that it’s easier to play wide intervals smoothly on the Reform. It’s also possible to really blow ff without the sound becoming harsh. The altissimo is easier (the F/F# are not flat) and has a more ‘covered’ quality. It’s the bore design I suppose. However, I find the Reform is a bit less flexible than a good French Boehm (a harsh fortissimo could be a quality you want sometimes). Maybe that’s the price you pay for the Reform’s stability. Swings and roundabouts again.
Tonally, with the Reforms your ‘default’ position is German. The instruments tend to sound more focused; more of a laser beam sound, as someone once described it. But it’s where you take the sound from that default position that counts.
After some hard work getting the measure of the Wurlies and German mps and reeds, I played them in orchestra. A very fine clarinetist who didn’t know I’d switched from Buffets was in the audience for a performance of Beethoven 8 and I forget what else. He told me later that I sounded ‘like myself’ but thought I’d had a very good reed on…
As the old saying goes, “’tain’t the gun, it’s the gunner”.
Dear K: Thank you so much for your wonderful “reform Boehm” response.
I, and I’m sure every reader will appreciate your candor.
As I see, and as they shall, it seems to be “six of one”, etc.
Thank you very much,