Penzel Mueller, and George Lewis and Woody Herman

October 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland:
My daughter has a pre-WW2 Penzel Muller DynaTone.
It is in great condition now, but I was told by our local music shop to start looking for replacement parts or a parts clarinet “just in case”.
He says it will be difficult to repair if something should ever go wrong with the instrument without the appropriate parts.

I have been unable to find another DynaTone or Dynatone parts online.
I was wondering if you know of a good resource for these things or if you are familiar with another manufacturer that may be comparible and could be used for parts if need be.
We think the clarinet is from the 30’s but cannot pinpoint a year. I have not found any serial numbers to verify an exact date of manufacture.

Any suggestions or advise you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
It has a fantastic tone and sound quality and she would hate to shelve the instrument out of fear of being unable to maintain it…
Thanks very much.

S G

Dear SG:

Thank you for your note on your Penzel Mueller Clarinet. I have known of PM for as long as I’ve been a player, but never played one or investigated the name. So, for your interest, this instrument company was founded in New York City in 1899 by two German Immigrants with the same names and I believe was manufactured until 1950. It was not a German Company though the workers hired by Penzel Mueller were of German descent. While in Boston studying in the 50s and 60s, the clarinet was considered to be a medium priced instrument with the same playing characteristics. However, since I never played one, I can’t attest to those qualities. Here is a quotation from a fellow who had a music store in New Orleans in the 60s: George Lewis, mentioned , was a famous early Jazz Clarinetist who did play Penzel Mueller. The article seems to imply that many Jazz Clarinetists used them, including Woody Herman, who played a Boehm System Penzel Mueller.

“In the spring of 1961 when I had my record and music shop at 731 St. Peter St, New Orleans, I bought an Albert system (improved) Bflat L.P (Low Pitch) clarinet made by Penzel-Müller & Co. New York. I don’t remember exactly what I paid for it, or where I bought it, but it was probably some amount between $ 10 and $ 15, and it was possibly a store such as the used furniture stores on Magazine Street.
Not long after that George Lewis came in my store one night and I showed him the clarinet. He said he had wanted to own an improved Albert system Penzel-Müller for some time and asked to buy it.(Several New Orleans clarinettists in the past had used them, and I believe today Albert Burbank and Louis Cottrell have Penzel-Müllers)
So I sold him the clarinet for whatever price I had paid for it. He took it to Werleins music store to have new pads and adjustments made. I think he used it quite often during the following years and in fact used it on his last job, when he played with Kid Thomas’ Band at Preservation Hall on Fri. Dec. 13, 1968. The last numbers he played were “My Blue Heaven” and of course Thomas’ final “Theme” song – “I’ll See You In My Dreams”.
Shirley (Lewis) & Carolyn (Buck) said that George always called this Penzel-Müller his “Bill Russell Clarinet”, but I had almost forgotten about it.”
“Penzel-Müller clarinets had a world-wide reputation. Their preference by the most eminent soloists marked them as first class instruments of first class makers. “They combine in the highest degree the essential qualities of free and pure tone, perfection in scale and mechanism, ease of manipulation and execution”, as a Penzel-Müller ad of the 1920s put it.
The Penzel-Müller company was established in New York in 1899 as a partnership between the German immigrants Gustav Ludwig “Louis” Penzel (1855 – 1920) and Edward Georg Müller (1869 – 1956) and existed till 1950. The fact that Penzel & Müller were German-trained craftsmen and that they imported parts for their clarinets (finally marked with the American eagle) from their native place in Vogtland/Saxony a Penzel-Müller Albert clarinet looks slightly different to the common Albert clarinets made by most of other instrument makers: the design is more “German” than “French”.
Beside the classical trained soloists and above mentioned jazz clarinetists George Lewis, Albert Burbank and Louis Cottrell Penzel-Müller clarinets were played by other jazz greats like Sidney Arodin, Willie Humphrey and Woody Herman (the latter used a Penzel-Müller in the Boehm system which was common in big bands).

Finally, to answer your specific concerns, most clarinets can be repaired, including replacement of pads, springs ,cork and even keys by any competent repair person, so you should have no concerns about the longevity of your instrument.

Good luck and keep playing.

Sherman Friedland

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The Mozart Requiem K. 626, soli passages for Basset Horns.

October 19, 2009

The Requiem was written as Mozart lay dying in 1791. Though his death is still somewhat of a mystery, (and he was buried in an unmarked grave), the work itself is still as vibrant a piece that exists, especially being a Requiem Mass for the departed, it stands either alongside the other great Requiems, like Verdi, Berlioz and Faure, Brahms, and each morning I listen to it, it is a constant source of inspirational beauty.
There are many completions of the Requiem and completed by many as well, for Mozart died before its completion.

Further, this is a work of special interest to clarinetists for Mozart uses a low tessitura of wind instruments of the orchestra, his clarinet of choice is the Basset Horn, (not the Basset Clarinet which is somehow strangely in vogue presently.)
The Basset Horn is not a horn and really not a clarinet as such, nor is it an alto clarinet, but a rather strange looking cross between a boxwood clarinet and some kind of curved bassoon-looking instrument, played with clarinet fingerings and pitched lower, and with one of the most gorgeous of clarinet sounds, only up to the clarion and no higher.
The two basset horns begins this piece playing a reverential counterpoint to its main theme, which is strangely beckoning and obvious the work of difference and excellence. If you know the work, you’ll understand , and friends if you don’t, you’re missing a great work for both clarinetists, and by the most outstanding and original composer of perhaps the entire history of music. (here is the first section,played by two Basset Horns

And in addition, only a part of the work were left, sketches if you will, and still it towers above the repertoire of both Mozart and of Requiems.

What are some of the little-known facts about this incredibly well-known work?

Mozart was a happy man during this compositional tour de force of his last month alive. He was racing to fullfill commissions, two of them due in two weeks in two different cities, La Clemenza di Tito, his first Opera in 10 years, premiered in Prague, and the Magic Flute in Vienna, which had a stunning debut in Vienna, unlike Prague where the reviews were mixed.
(La Clemenza of Titio, has a gorgeous aria for Soprano, and clarinet obbligato., “Parto, Parto”) He finished the Clarinet Concerto in October and on November 18 conducted a new cantata for his Masonic Lodge.
He had one final work to complete, for in July, Count Franz Von Walsseg, through an unidentified emissary , had agreed to handsomely pay Mozart for a Requiem, half the fee in advance and half upon completion. There are mostly strange reasons why Von Walsseg anonymously approached Mozart, however the best is the fact that this fellow was in the habit of commissioning composers to write works which he would call his own. Von Walsseg intended the work to be played each year in memory of his wife, whom Mozart had known . The story goes that the emissary appeared dressed all in grey and had dark skin and a strange accent. Actually he was a servant of Walssep who happened to be tall and dressed in grey and had an accent because he was Turkish.

Mozart set to work on the Requiem in October, the previous month having being spent in illness, depression and thoughts of imprending death. Also his wife was recuperaing from a fall and was away.
What took Mozart? The most likely cause was a viral epidemic that swept through Vienna in November. On the 20th he was swollen and couldn’t write because of this edema, which spread through his entire body so much so, that he couldn’t even sit up in bed or turn his body, so it was impossible to even take up a pen.
Before he died he was able to complete only the Requiems opening movement, along with the Kyrie and portions of the Sequence, the Dies Irae and ending with the Lacrimosa. In the remaining sections he left either drafts or sketches half finished and for the concluding movements, nothing. It is said that Mozart summoned singers to his bedside to sing the parts he had already written.
Even though only the skeleton of the Mass was composed by Mozart, it remains one of his most enduring and most frequently performed works.
Despite his illness, Mozart really it is supposed, had no idea that he was dying.
But that too is conjecture.
(There are those  who believe that Mozart was placed upon earth to simply write music, a vessel of excellence, which when full, complete, then so too, would he be complete.)

Since much of the Requiem lay unfinished at his death , his wife Costanza in dire need of money, had to get the piece completed so she could rceive the rest of the commission. She had to do it anonymously, which is where Sussmayr, a former student of Mozart, enters.He finished the work. Though his work has mostly been criticized it is to him that we owe the thanks for the completion of the Requiem, which helped Costanza to pay her bills, and gave us this completely different work of Mozart. Actually though highly criticized, it was Brahms who stated that it was the best versions and the official one.

Ah, and why different. First, there are no similar works in his huge output except perhaps in his Masonic Choral Music.

And to listen to the work, we are immediately conscious of basically a work of the Baroque, full of contrast , counterpoint, and concertato. There are many contrapuntal section and varying tempi. It’s an exciting work for a 53 minute long Requiem Mass, and is constantly changing. Mozart was a Classical composer however this piece os loaded with tributes to Bach and the Conertato style.
How did he do it? We know that he corrected very little of what he wrote. It just came out, perfect. There is much more to be written about the Requiem, and I will, but in later pieces on this site.
If you don’t know it, please listen to it,for it is dedicated to theclarinet perhaps like no other of his works.

stay well, best regards, Sherman


Mozart,The Twelve Original Duets, K 487, Basset Horn

October 9, 2009

Dear Sherman Friedland—

There is a set of Mozart Duets (six total) published by International Music, edited by Stanley Drucker. Were these originally written for two clarinets, or some other instruments? Can you tell me where I might find information on them I could use for program notes?

I would appreciate any help you may be able to provide and I thank you in advance for your time.

JW

Dear JW.

The duets that you mention are transcriptions  of Violin Sonatas and as such are not originally written for two clarinets.
This is an interesting controversy because Mozart was so very prolific. Anyone can take any duet for any instruments and frequently do, but I feel that these duets of which you speak are K 487, the Twelve Duets for ….well something. No one can decide if they were written for so-called French Horns, or for Basset Horns. There are 12 and the arrangement of which you speak could be of 6 of them. Neither International Music nor Stanley Drucker have any credence as conveyors of actual urtext(meaning totally historically accurate) concerning Mozart.
Here is the listing from his works:
12 Duos, K487 (496a)
AMA XV, no. 3; NMA VIII:21
Vienna, 27 Jul 1786 (autograph)
2 hn
No. 1: Allegro
No. 2: Menuetto (Allegretto)
No. 3: Andante
No. 4: Polonaise
No. 5: Larghetto
No. 6: Menuetto
No. 7: Adagio
No. 8: Allegro
No. 9: Menuetto
No. 10: Andante
No. 11: Menuetto
No. 12: Allegro
Of autograph MS only nos. 1, 3 and 6 survives (dated as above). On these pages Mozart makes no mention of instrumentation, but expert opinion now favors horns rather than basset-horns.

There is some really important information here, and that is concerning the wonderful Basset Horn, for which in my opinion, Mozart wrote these duets. They are not a clarinet, but are quite similar in sound toa clarinet in the alto tessitura. This is not to say alto clarinet, the kind one finds in bands. Thi is an instrumentfor which Mozart wrote only briefly, but wonderfully, in the Requiem.  They are beautiful in an almost unearthly manner. They look nothing like a clarinet, but like some kind of hybrid between a clarinet and a strange bassoon. I am going to put the address here of the first movement of the Requiem . Actually, it can be found on YOU Tube, complete, conducted by John Elliott Gardener in his youth and it is worth keeping, for the Basset Horns and the performance itself, which was filmed in a beautiful church in Barcelona. I know those interested will find this great work , and I think a great performance of same.

The performance(not to digress) is very Baroque in nature, and for me the best, with the Sussmayer completion. Check it out, clarinetists and music lovers.

The only other works for Basset Horn and Clarinet are the two Concertpieces for Clarinet Basset Horn and Cello, by Mendellsohn, which I’ve played so many times, but always with Cello.

I have played duets by Mozart literally all of my playing life, but almost always arrangements from any number of his works, including operas. These are the only actual duets written for two similar instruments and they had no designation as to specificity. Perhaps there is no real answer to your question.

I would suggest you look up the K487 and check them against your six as it could be that they are one and the same, or at least six of them are.
Mozart has been arranged to death, but these are the only actual instrumental duets with which I’m familiar. As you can see, they have been arranged for pairs of almost anything.

Let us say, he meant Basset Horns.
Good luck,
Sherman

The original Mozart Duets K 498 are as I’ve mentioned , written by Mozart for either Basset Horns or Horns. Not an arrangement or a transcription.

SF


A New C Clarinet.

October 9, 2009

Dear Sherman

I’m a beginner. I’ve just bought a Ridenour Lyrique C clarinet. I’ve
been unhappy with the Vandoren and Rico reeds and came across your
discussion about the Forestone reeds. I had a look at their selection
on their website and don’t know enough about clarinets to work out
which one might be a good for me. I want to play folk music and am
looking for a slightly easier blow without sacrificing too much tone.

I recently tried my friend’s Vandoren mouthpiece, it was incredibly
easier to blow than my (Ridenour made) mouthpiece but there was a
great loss in the richness of the tone, it was much thinner and
shrill.

The best sound I’ve had on my set up so far has been with a Vandoren
two and a half but I found it quite a hard play.

Regards

R M

P.S. Your website was invaluable to me when I spent long nights

researching which instrument to buy out of the forest of the clarinets
out there.

Hello RM:
Thank you for your note. I’m happy you like your new clarinet, and can completely understand your frustration with the Van Doren and Rico reed situation as being unable to satisfy your desires.
In my experimentation with the Forestone reed on different mouthpieces, I have found one simple truth: the forestone reed enhances the response of every mouthpiece I own. Speaking of Van Doren specifically, I tried it on an M13, a Van Doren mouthpieces which is the mass produced reed manufacturers take on the Chedeville mouthpieces of the past. Now I played cane on this mouthpiece for more than a year. The mouthpiece responds more freely with a Forestone reed as all of mine do. This includes Richard Hawkins R, and S mouthpieces as well as a Gregg Smith which was unsatisfactory for me, and Hawkins refaced. All were excellent or much better with Forestone . I also own an unusual crystal mouthpiece   with Gino B Cioffi as well as Obrien etched on it , and now, with RH as well.Mr Hawkins expertly refaced for me. It is quite special. .

All of this gives me a very strong message that the methodology of the Forestone is simply the best in the making of a synthetic reed. I have not played on the Ridenour mouthpiece you have and cannot comment on that. On all others the reed has enhanced all of the qualities of the mouthpiece, tuning, response, and timbre.
Now, as to strength, I would have a difficult time in making a recommendation, but would suggest that you begin with a 2.25 Forestone Reed. If able, I would suggest buying three, one on either side of the first, half a strength higher and lower. Most probably you’ll be able to play all three, but one of them will be most suitable.
As I write this I know that you will find the right reed, which is unusual for a reed recommendation, however my own experiences has proved that your reed troubles will be over with Forestone.
Their injection molding invention of being able to make extremely thin tips,( thinner than ever before), consistently on each reed they make is what makes the statement true. Also the reed contains the material of cane: bamboo.

If you play any of the popular Van Doren facings: B45,5RV,B44, B46, or V360, M13, M30, M40, you should have success. Should you wish to try the more sensual sounding Zinner blank, try a Hawkins S or one of the others. All are very responsive, dark, and rather adventurous to play..Good luck, and let me know how it’s going.

best wishes, Sherman


A Student requests an upgrade

October 7, 2009

Hello Mr Friedland,

I am an amateur clarinetist with a particular interest in Jazz. I have recently reignited my passion for this instrument and I must say that I find your website extremely informative.

You were once my examiner when I was a high school student at Pierre-Laporte 15 years ago, I was under the supervision of Marek Sowinsky. Your assessment of my performance which I still have somewhere was extremely encouraging to say the least. One thing I remember was your particular interest in my tone which led you to inspect my clarinet, a Yamaha 352, an intermediate level made for the japanese market.

After many years of service this clarinet has provided me, I am thinking it may be time to upgrade to a pro clarinet for a refreshing change. A recent modification was switching to a 5JB mouthpiece with an eddie daniels ligature, and my! what a considerable improvement. Easier glissandos, vibratos, greater projection etc.. But I was really curious to see how much of an improvement I would feel with a pro level instrument, so I went to Twiggs recently and tried out 4 different models

1)YCL-650, nice sound, well made, some resistance, very close to what I am currently play.
2) R-13, nice feel and smoother on the higher register, but some notes had iffy tuning.
3) R-13 vintage, much sweeter sounding and cleaner on the higher register than the regular R-13.
4) Tosca, nice sound but I find it better suited for classical music.

I liked the R13 vintage the most out of the four, but the asking price was 4000$ which strikes me as ridiculous.

My question is what else would you recommend I try. I find the Buffets overpriced, would custom yamahas be worth looking into? maybe leblanc or selmer? are there any used models you would suggest?

Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you

best regards

Zayid

Hello Zayid:
It has ben many years since that adjudication at Pierre Laporte High school. Thank you for writing to me and for your questions about purchasing a new or newer clarinet.
I too feel that many of the newer instruments are priced “ridiculous” as you say.
There is one clarinet that I can recommend to you that will have the best tuning and the most even scale of any that I have ever played. This is the Lyrique Clarinet, which has been designed by Tom Ridenour, who is in Duncanville, Texas. He is the designer who designed the clarinet upon which Eddie Daniels plays, as well as Larry Combs.You can find his website in your browser. He has a system wherein you can try one of his clarinets, and he will give you a real service policy.
Either write to him or call him. I feel that his instrument is the best value and the best sounding clarinet out there right now. It is made of hard rubber, which will not be popular in Montreal because it is not sold or played in the OSM, however it is truly a great clarinet. I have a pair myself.

If you choose among the others you mention, the Yamaha 650 is the best .

Good luck with your clarinet.

Best regards,
Sherman


Alicia de Larrocha 1929-2009

October 5, 2009

Alicia de Larrocha died on September 26 in Barcelona, Spain. She was 86 and died after having broken her hip several years past and had been in ill health.
For all of us clarinetists, she was an extremely important musician and pianist. To say that she was the greatest interpreter of Spanish music sounds more like an obituary, and this is not an obituary, but a tribute. The lady ,who was incidentally tiny at 4′,9″ ( and suffered through being small) had the most beautiful interpretation of the intricate music of the composers Albeniz, Granados, and de Falla, and others of any pianist.
The poetry of her playing was always very much to the fore of her playing, however part of the ingredients of this poetry came from her incredible understanding of the rhythm of this music and in the interpretation of the ornamentation, so much of it not written, but inflected and so perfectly interpreted by Ms. de Larrocha.
Her performances were introduced to me by my wife, who has played them for years, but this “clarinet-player” as I am, (and are so many of the readers of this site)I knew nothing.
To understand the music of these composers, especially the piano music,is to understand that her understanding of the interpretation of the ornamentation was one of the most salient aspects of her playing.
It is in her interpretation of this part of the music wherein she brought to life the music of Spain and its importance.
Olivier Messiaen, the great French composer wrote that the music of Albeniz, specifically, “Iberia” is equal to the” Well-Tempered Clavier.”, by JS Bach”.
But, for us, it is her understanding of the rhythm of this music and her interpretation that can bring every single-line instrumentalist great understanding in playing. Her phrasing , understanding of the line, and her ability which was perfectly mastered is a lesson for us all to learn.

Her recordings of these masterpieces of Spanish piano music are all still very much available and each time I listen to them my understanding of music and the clarinet is hightened.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, I suggest it for your perusal.

As a youngster of 3 she wanted to play the piano, but was refused. She finally gained lessons by banging her head on the floor until she was allowed to play, a true story. Her first concerts were at 5 years old and she first played with a professional orchestra at age 11.

Rest in Peace, dear Madame de Larrocha.

Sherman


The Throat Bb, again, and again.

October 3, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland,

Thank you very much for you rarticles and answers to questions!
I have benefited much by your insights into clarinet playing and clarinet models in general.

I am a high school student and an amateur clarinet player.
When I first started to play the clarinet, I had an Buffet E11 (which I still play).
I could get every other note sound good, at least (even if the pitch was wrong)
but I could never get the throat Bb to sound in a satisfactory manner.
As I am planning to change my E11 soon, and I want my new clarinet to have a clear throat Bb.
What clarinet models do you suggest?
Do Ridenour clarinets get rid of the throat Bb problem? (I wanted to ask because it wasn’t listed as one of the features)

Thank you very much for your time!
Most sincerely,
J A C

Hello JAC:
As to your question concerning the E11 you currently own and play and the Ridenour clarinet and the throat Bb, the main source of your concern. The most imortant feature(s) of the Ridenour Lyrique clarinet is that the entire scale is made more even to play and to tune than any other clarinet on the market, regardless of price.
Tuning is as related to the evenness of scale as anything on the clarinet, that is to say, the actual “timbre ” of the Ridenour scale is made much more even than any other clarinet, principally the throat Bb because that note is the worst note on the current clarinet that causes the most trouble. The trouble is associated with players who find the need to add resonance or muting fingers while playing the throat Bb. Just about everyone who plays clarinet does this, not only that, but justifies the practice as being bona fide as well.
NO, it is not.
A correct clarinet is one wherein you do not throw fingers down when you play the throat Bb,( or the open g and the G# as well)

The fingerings on the clarinet remain as those in any standard fingering chart, no extra fingers thrown down, no embouchure manipluation, just play the correct fingering on the Lyruque Ridenour and you are fine.
I do not know Mr. Ridenour, only as the best designer of the century. I have no vested interest, only that of good music making, correct music making.

I hope this is of help to you.
Best wishes, Sherman