My Full-Boehm Buffet

September 28, 2009

What!? You had a full-Boehm Buffet.?Yes indeed, I did.

Here is the story and perhaps an excellent argument for the maturing clarinetist to teach rather than make the leap of faith to become an orchestral player.
You see, after playing Principal in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, I continued playing, but decided that teaching in a University would be preferable than playing principal in what was a mediocre orchestra.

And so I did a Masters Degree and than I taught.The results are all through this blog. They added up to many years. My final job was in Concordia University in Montreal. I was hired to teach Baroque Music History, and the History Survey Course, the Orchestra and the Choir and Basic Skills, their first fundamental music course given in that curriculum.
Busy Schedule? Yes, almost insanely so, because my schedule included teaching on both campuses (should that be campi?) The shuttle from one to the other took 20 minutes and naturally, or un naturally, I was always late for the History Course.
As far as the Choir and Orchestra were concerned they were non-existent. But the conductor of the Communty Orchestra was going back to Tornoto and he asked me if I wanted it?
I needed to be asked only once.
I built that orchestra from a group of disenchanted amateur musicians, students, and deaf mutes into a group of amateur musicians, students and deaf mutes.

Took me 17 years, and more fun than I can remember having, ever.
I had never conducted before, only took one course in conducting and conducted a few times where I had been a guest in some festival or another.
What was the difference?

Easy.

We played only the best music I could find for the group, Beethoven, Mozart, and a couple of the Brahms, many Beethoven Overtures and Haydn as well. By the time I got through, Egmont was coming out of my ears.

But, in this particular job,I became Chair, I got to play whenever I desired and whatever I desired, got a grant in order to play four concerts a year,all of which were proadcast on Radio Canada, and despite the ridiculous course load, I began to have a truly wonderful time.
Of course, as Chair of the Department, I was treated with respect by every music dealer in Montreal.
So, that brings me back to my Full Boehm Buffet.

I used to go to Arduini Music on Bleury St. in Montreal to get reeds and all kinds of other things, for myself, and and for the department. Naturally, whenever they had a new horn or one that they couldn’t get rid of, they asked me if I wanted to try it. I always said yes, and it was a geeat way to try everything there was to be played.
That is where the Full Boehm came in. Norman Arduini asked me if I wanted to take it and try it. My answer was always yes and home it went with me.
Brand new in the case, from perhaps the end of the 50s. early 60’s or so.
It played beautifully, except for the articulated g#. I brought it back, telling Roland that the thing didn’t play the g# articulation very well.
He took it back there to where the magic happens and brought it back out to me in maybe a minute and a half. “Try it now”. he said.
Oh my! it was spectacular! What a beautiful horn. I think I played it on one chamber concert and brought it back. Why? Because they had another one to try, a Leblanc L27, another wonderful horn , which I should have kept.
That is the story of my full-boehm Buffet, and a reason it is so much better to teach in University than to play in an orchestra in th boonies.. And perhaps good for a few laughts, or a smile, perhaps.
Keep practicing.
Best always, Sherman

All of the above is or was true. Montreal is still a great city, but Arduinis is gone, and so am I , and the Milwaukee symphony after 40 years is an acceptable orchestra.


“I really lament the apparent demise”

September 24, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland and all,

I have read with great interest the many very justifiable criticisms of the contemporary Buffet R-13. I really lament the apparent demise of a company that once contributed so much to the art and craft of the clarinet.

It seems that Boosey & Hawkes doesn’t know what they’re doing as far as the clarinet goes. When I was 1st-chair in a nationally recognized high-school concert band ensemble in the late 1960’s, my director found me a vintage Buffet from the early 1950’s. We had some of the pads redone in cork (the usual upper-joint ones), replaced the needle springs, and swedged a couple of the rod-pivot screw fittings, and ended up with a clarinet that responded like a dream, and in tune with itself (well, at least as much as a stopped cylindrical pipe that overblows at the 12th ever can be in tune with itself, without humoring some notes).

Years later, I tried some new R-13’s, and they sucked. Sorry, but that’s actually being kind. Even more recently, I tried a few more, and they sucked even more, if that’s possible. I have a Noblet that I keep around for my students that plays better than these monstrously overpriced tragedies do. When Buffet was Buffet & Crampon in Paris, they knew what they were doing. After all, did they not invent the polycylindrical bore? I suppose I should get past my resentment of Boosey & Hawkes for screwing up what was once, arguably, the Stradivarius of clarinets, but doggone it, facts are facts.

For the record, I now play a Selmer Series 10 refurbished by Tom Ridenour and fitted with one of his professional mouthpieces. It is one hell of a horn. I also own his Lyrique C, a work of genius. At any rate, I guess there’s no question here, but I just wanted to relate my experience. I’ve been playing for 46 years, so perhaps that counts for something.

GM


“If they are so bad, why are they so popular”

September 23, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland:

I thoroughly enjoy reading your columns — they’re informative, entertaining, and you get right to the point.

I find your opinions about Buffet clarinets particularly interesting. You say they’ve got all sorts of problems, don’t play in tune, and require the player to make many adjustments during the course of playing to get the instrument to play properly.

My question is simple — if all this is true, why do so many terrific clarinetists play them? I can understand that they’re popular with the general population of clarinetists because world-class professionals play them. What I can’t understand, is why would (many of) the best of the best play with them and no others? Don’t they want every advantage to make their playing even better,? Why would they put up with all the troubles you cite? Is there something that a Buffet has that makes up for all the drawbacks you mention?

Once again, thanks for providing such an interesting perspective on clarinets for us to enjoy.

Regards,

E.L.

Dear E.L
Many thanks for your compliments,and commentary on my commentaries concerning Buffet clarinets. They are appreciated.

Everything you say is true; it is only a question of degree. There are a couple of hasty generalizations to which I will respecfully draw your attention.

First, as to your statement posed as a question: “why do so many terrific clarinetists play them?”
Answer, they don’t. Three of the finest living clarinetists play others: They are Larry Combs, Principal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,(retiring this year),Eddie Daniels, a player who is renown for his jazz playing, but also plays so-called classical, with equal aplomb, play Leblanc Clarinets, and have for a number of years. The late Anthony Gigliotti, principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra, did play Buffet, however at the conclusion of his career played the Selmer 10G clarinet. And let us never forget Mr.Morales, the current Principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra when last I heard, plays Selmer “Recital”, really a different bore than all the other mentioned..I think one would agree that they are all “terrific” clarinetists.The New York Philharmonic clarinets have always been Buffet players, but not the Boston Symphony, where all the section played Selmer, until Mr Cioffi retired. Boston was a Selmer town, as NY was a Buffet town. Now, this was not the reason, but what the current principals play is frequently the way the students follow, terrific or not. I cannot make a list of the various major symphonies and what clarinet they all play, but I do think that every single player mentioned is a “terrific” clarinetist. I make that statement with certainty because they have all passed the most rigorous audtion process ever devised. Many of the people you consider to be “terrific” are not that, and that is my opinion,separate from fact. The barrier I create by having to pass the audition and to play each day in front of the world the repertoire, without error.

But this is not a statement about Buffet or Selmer, for there are many terrific players who play neither. I speak of Sabine Meyer, and this young Bliss fellow, also playing other instruments than Buffet as do most of the symphonic clarinetists of Europe. They play a different clarinet with a different mouthpiece, bore and reed.

Choice of instrument has a lot to do with tradition and the principal players of the Big 5 in the US back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s all played Buffet, except for Boston, which had the tradition of beging a Selmer orchestra, and there is a special reason for that, too. Gaston Hamelin was the Principal clarinetist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1930, his contract was not renewed by Maestro Kousevitzky, the reason being that he played on the Selmer Metal Clarinet, metal being the operative word. This was a superlative instument, but it was metal. Selmer, very quickly took the instrument out of prodction and their catalog. Hamelin simp,ly went back to France. He took with him students, one of whom was McClane, who returned to play Principal in the Philadelphia for 8 years until he passed away, almost on stage, his second being Gigliotti, who helped prop him up in his final days, and who became Principal. These players had someone who is no longer around, Hans Moenig, who doctored McClanes clarinets for years.He was the magician.

Presently , there is Tom Ridenour and others as well. Ridenour designed the “Opus” and “Concerto”,played by Combs and Daniels, mentioned above. If you are interested in traveling to Duncanville, Texas, I’m sure Tom will greet you with cordiality. (Call first.)

Please refer to my article written in August,” Buffet and Anthony Gigliotti” in which a former student of Gigliotti tells of the procedure in which Buffet clarinets were chosen for him to try, which I found extremely interesting. The production workers on line in every factory know whats is special and they went over the horns produced for the finest instruments for Gigliotti. He in turn, would let Moenig work over them until they were up to professional standards. He is legend in the clarinet business, Moenig, and in his shop ion Philadelphia he worked on literally everybody who was either in Philadelphia or anywhere near Philadelphia, and I mention , for many , it “was always” Moenig.

Here is a list of what is not my opinion, but what I and many others have found to be true of the ordinary Buffet clarinet:

1.the silencers for the keys played by the little finger are made of plastic which is , as one reviewer said, “is an accident waiting to happen”

2. The throat notes are in general, sharp, the low E, F and F# are flat. The high C is sharp, and the high e and f are flat, all these are standard for this clarinet.

3. Currently, there have been problems with plating peeling off.

Now these are almost standard on all Buffets, however they are fixable by an acoustician who can hear and can play the clarinet. But, to whom do you bring your horn? There are many who can tune, however the price can be prohibitive for the student, and there are many young people who do not hear all that well so they perhaps buy the horn just to have “Buffet”. Cost of Buffet is just too much for a young student to bear, and I’ve seen students who have to borrow to buy them or have their parents do so, and I find that difficult, when there are so many other clarinets that come better prepared, in tune, and with little defective issues, which are facts I have found and certainly not my opinion.

Yamaha clarinets are generally to be somewhat of a copy of a Buffet, and they are, but, without the defects mentioned above.

So, while I do state some facts about clarinets, I do nor consider them opinions. They are facts, as I have discovered them, generally true of all high end Buffets. Yes, they can be fixed mostly, the only question being, whom does one ask.

I hope this helps . Best regards,
Sherman


Really Vintage Oehler Bass Clarinet

September 21, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland:
Circa 1930, My husband (Maestro Theodore Gargiulo) purchased from a private individual in NYC an improved Albert System bass clarinet. Theodore passed away in Dec 2006, but played this instrument till his 90th birthday. He enjoyed an illustrious career in conducting.
With this instrument he began his career as he played it in the Bellison Clarinet Ensemble which was sponsored by the New York Philharmonic Symphony Society and through the 1940s in bands, orchestras and the National Youth Administration Symphony under Leopold Stokowski.

“This bass clarinet is reputed to have been only one of five made by Oehler. It is a unique instrument (a Stradivarius of the winds) with a smaller bore and mouthpiece; it stands off the floor longer than the standard French models and the keys are made of German silver. When played well, the sound is more solid and less spreading than the sound of a bass clarinet with a truer continuation of the lower range of the Bb and A clarinet sound. Its range is concert pitch)”
These notes were left by the maestro in a letter.
I am thinking of selling it …
Warmly,
Allegro con brio.

Hi everyone: Am posting this because it speaks of a highly unusual Oehler System bass clarinet from the 30s, played until recently.

I have the name and photos of the horn should anyone be interested.

Stay well, sherman


Yamaha XT1 clarinet

September 20, 2009

Hello Mr. Friedland:

You responded  recently with info about the Yamaha xt-1 clarinet. Do you know anything else about this horn? Why discontinued? When? Why not mentioned on Yamaha’s site? Was it faulty? Is it same design at ycl-450 or Allegro?

I’m considering buying one off of eBay tomorrow but am hesitant because of the lack of info.

Thank you for your excellent site, by the way. I’ve read a number of articles while shopping for a clarinet for my 14-year-old son, a fourth-year clarinet student stepping up from a ycl-250.
J D

Dear JD:
I would suggest you purchase the XT1 as it is a good instrument and better than the 450, or the 550, both of which I’ve played and owned.
Here is what I said in 2008 about the XT1:
As to the original question, the XT1 is a clarinet whose price was 1139 and is now being offered for 939, or approximately those prices. There are also similarly priced XT1s in Saxophone, trumpet and trombone, and those too are all or will be discontinued. The XT1s are being offered to retailers and are generally the same as the line being discontinued with some changes in some instruments. The XT1 clarinet has silver-plated keys.

I looked at the photo of the only XT1 on Ebay and noticed the plating on the keys. t is most probably exactly as a higher priced model, but without a couple of the more sellable features. This one looks good and the price is right, so, without further adieu, grab it!

Companies as Yamaha are essentially good . Yamahas standards in clarinets are quite high, so it is most probably a small difference from a much more costly difference. Frequently(especially with Yamaha) items are discontinued and replaced with a different numbering, and frequently a higher price. I mention specifically the 20, now called 250 and the 450.

Models are frequently the same as previously numbered, but with higher prices.

best of regards, and luck, Sherman


Determining worth of a vintage clarinet

September 15, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland,

My grandfather gave a clarinet to me for my 12th birthday in April, 1956. It is a Leblanc Symphonie II, B Series, Model Number 1076, Serial Number 6171. I have the original bill of sale and the warranty certificate.

The Leblanc website says it does not have any information on clarinets made before 1964. Please tell me what you know about my clarinet. It is in perfect condition, as I have had it completely rebuilt. For insurance purposes, I need to determine a value. If you can estimate a range of values for it, I would appreciate that also.

I have just given it to my grandson, age 11, who chose to play clarinet in middle school.

Thank you,
RJB

Dear RJB:
This is also for the many who request a determination of value for insurance purposes for their instrument. In one sense it is a difficult question to answer for so much depends upon the actual playing condition of the instrument and also, the appearance, including the condition of the keys, whether there is pitting or other wear which is discernible, for these things can diminish the value of an instrument almost to nothing. The cost of replating is prohibitive as it also includes a compete reconditioning and replacing of all the springs, corks, etc.

In the case of the Leblanc 1076, this was the model preceding the 1176, the LL, which is perhaps the best clarinet ever made by Leblanc, but it too is subject to all of the conditions of the first statement: playing condition and appearance. The playing condition really can only be determined by a clarinetist, and then, it depends upon whom you ask, for there can be a dozen different opinions, for instance, if the player prefers another brand or bore or almost any of the variables, these can be part of the determination as to worth of the instrument. I would also have to suggest avoiding having a dealer make the determination for those and other reasons, perhaps too obvious to mention here.

So, considering all of the above, there is still a place to get such a determination, which also may be difficult to use for insurance purposes.
These are the various auction sites for musical instruments  . On these sites one can compare ones instrument with others of the same brand and model .

One thing is quite important to remember and that is, as a rule, clarinets do not appreciate. These instruments were made in great numbers and while the quality of Leblanc is quite high, the years of use take their toll on the instrument. Many request a determination for insurance purposes, however they usually have in mind to sell the instrument and do not know what to ask and this is really in how you value it yourself and your ability to accurately describe its provenance. Photographs always help and an acurate description is the most important. On this particular clarinet depending upon its condition the comparative prices will be all over the map. It is a good or high quality instrument, part of the determination. For insurance purposes there are many who will give you an official appraisal which you can use, however the actual value can besomething else again.

I hope this has been of some help.

best regards, Sherman


Buying Buffet, a walk in the forest.

September 11, 2009

Dear Mr Friedland:

Hi. I’m nineteen years old, and have been playing clarinet for several months. I cannot afford a teacher, but am making considerable progress on my own, with the help of books and my ears. One issue I have is that when I tongue notes in the upper clarion register, I often find that all I get is the note as it should sound without the register key. Also, I need to tighten my embouchure for the higher notes. It that supposed to happen? Any response would be a big help, Thank You. (I’m playing a Selmer 1400, Fobes Debut, Luyben Ligature, Legere 2.5 student reed)

My second question relates to a clarinet I bought last week in a local store. I was told it’s a Buffet R13. The serial # is 38,251. Is this really an R13, or is it too early to be an R13. Also, I got it for around $600. Is that more, or less than it’s true value? It’s in playable condition, but could use some work here and there. Also, the barrel is newer- it says “R13 B 660” on it. Anything you can tell me about this clarinet would be helpful- I can still return it if it was a ripoff. Thank You Very Much.

Aaron

“Told it was an R-13”
Well, Aaron, perhaps we have a lot of talking to do.
It could have been an R-13, or perhaps an E-11, in any event, the barrel is a 66mm and is probably not original, as you have said. Suffice it to say that you could have an R-13, but most probably not. In any event this particular clarinet is quite famous for being infamous, meaning uneven, complete with many tuning problems, and in general, not a great instrument, and I’m sure you paid quite well for it, at $600.00. The going price for either a new actual R-13 or anything like it is usually much more. So let us say, you got a good deal.

But, if I could not afford a teacher and had 600 dollars, I would have put the money into perhaps a dozen lessons, a much better deal than some leaky clarinet purported to be something it is not, which in general , is the Buffet story,regardless of price, or deal. If you have a perfectly good student instrument, why would you buy something not as good, and with money you can’t afford?

How does one know that one is making “considerable progress” without a teacher? One does not.
It is not a matter of your ears, or anything having to do with what you play on or how you clamp it to the mouthpiece. All this equipment plays , but you are either taking in too much mouthpiece, or the clarinet is leaking , or you are not covering the keys properly. In short, you donot have a clue.

But, I have a solution: Take the “Buffet” back today to the place you bought it and get your money back. Then, find out about getting a teacher, who is a clarinetist, or a graduate student in Clarinet at a school nearby. Call her (or him) and arrange for at least one lesson. Maybe, it might cost you 50 bucks. You’ll find out more in that one lesson about why the clarinet sounds the way it does than all the crap you can buy at a local music store, and what is more, you’ll be getting what is most valuable for a new clarinet player: that extra set of educated ears. If you get lucky, you’ll learn more in that one lesson than all the Buffet has taught you.

Good luck to you.
Best regards,
Sherman