High Gs many fingerings, and Beethoven 8th in Norway

Dear Mr. Friedland

When I bought the Lazarus Method for Clarinet (part one), the fingering chart (Boehm System) shows clearly to some extent. There is however one fingering I did not quite understand. It is the highest G. There are seven different ways to play this tone, but if you look at the fourth and fifth fingering, 7bis applies to both methods. So my question is quite simple : Should 7bis be pressed on the fourth only ? Or fifth? Or both? If you could answer these questions I would be most thankful

Yours sincerely Audun S (S in Norway)

Dear Mr. A,S,S in Norway

With regard to the correct fingering for the altissimo G on the clarinet, the response is much easier than is the question.
The best fingering for the high G on the clarinet can be achieved as you have read, with many different fingerings, each of which produce a somewhat different quality of pitch and/or of timbre, and what is perhaps most important, is where in the passage you are playing does the g exist.
For instance, let us take a classic high g, the one that appears twice in the minuet of the Beethoven eighth symphony. At he very end of this minuet the clarinet finishes on the high g pianissimo. I play it with just the first finger of the left hand and the first finger of the right and that is all.
The note can be a trifle sharp, but because it is at the very end of the trio, immediately prior to the Da Capo it is usually quite acceptable, as is the same fingering in the middle of the minuet. The fingering using two and two is usually a bit flat and sometimes can disappoint by not speaking at all. The “one and one” always comes out, and needn’t be a worry.

As I remember, I first worked out a series of fingering for that whole Beethoven 8th Minuet because it is not the high g itself, but how you approach it and how you leave it which is most important.A good performance means a fine and delicate legato for that solo and that takes a good bit of work in achieving as I recall. Once there, it remains, but of course as all, it must be maintained. Nobody plays that piece cold, as they say.
So in the final judgement, it is a matter of your judgement and of course, the conductor.
In chamber music matters, you use the one that speaks securely and that is in tune in the passage and can be played at the right dynamic.

So, there is no particular answer. Like many notes in the upper register of the clarinet the choice of fingering is contingent upon the surrounding circumstances, and of course, your reed.
One of the great teachers I was fortunate to have was Fernand Gillet, principal oboe of the Boston Symphony.
He would tell us, which I pass on to you and others, “Never sacrifice the note itself for the dynamic” In other words, it you have a pianissimo high g and you miss it because you tried to be so soft, you have missed it. Something about which to think

stay well, and play well.


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