Georges E. Moleux, principal DB, Boston Symphony,and more Cioffi memoirs!

June 30, 2010

Mr.Moleux was for a time the conductor of the NEC Concert Band, a group which was organized in a similar manner to the Garde Republican Bands in Paris, an organization of many clarinets, perhaps as many as 30 or 40. In any event, that was the compliment of clarinetists in the Concert Band of the New England Conservatory of Music back during the 1950s when Georges Moleux conducted it and I, as a young high school clarinetist was advised by my teacher to start going to rehearsal at the Conservatory. This was a very big step for a high school student, and a very exciting one as well. Vurtually all of the players were students at the conservatory, many destined for playing careers. Then, there was yours truly who during the very first piece, (The Prelude to Le Coq D’Or, by Rimsky Korsakoff) saw the cue for the clarinet solo, and played it along with the principal clarinetist, a terrible mistake for a kid like me, and one that I will never ever forget, especially since I was politely told the function of the cadenza was for me, not to play. It was the first time I had seen a cue written in my part.

M. Moleux, perhaps the best double bass player in the world when Koussevitsky brought him to the US from France, playe Principal double bass for all of his years with Boston.
Late in his life, he married one of his young students, and has since passed on. Her name was Sandra, and at the time, she was a young stutdent at NEC.
While at the Paris Conservatory, Moleux  won three gold medals all in one year: One in Doublebass, another, in Clarinet and the third in solfeggio.
He once sang the Flight of the Bumblebee to the band at a rehearsal, very fast, using sofegge syllables, something I have never forgotten.
Searching for material on Mr.Moleux, I remembered a dear old friend, Buell Neidlinger, one of the more revered doublebass players in Jazz, who  studied with Goerges Moleux in Boston in 1959, confirming all of the facts about Moleux. Outside of the many Boston Symphony recordings, Moleux made also the Schubert Quintet with the Budapest String Quartet, and a recording of the Stravinsky Octet and L’Histoire du Soldat, recorded on the stage at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein conducting. These are both still available.

Most of this I learned this afternoon, when I received a phone call from Buell, the first one received since we played together in Buffalo in 1965, both part of a group of Creative Associates, performing new music, as part of a Rockefeller Grant. I had been searching for material on Moleux, emailed Buell, and received the call today.

Buell Neidlinger, though famous for being one the foremost Jazz double bassists, also played double bass in the Boston Symphony Orchestra for three years. While there , he knew Gino Cioffi, Principal Clarinetist, about whom readers will have read several stories. Here are two more, heard today for the first time: Toward the end of his tenure with the BSO, a note appeared on the bulletin board, written by Erich Leinsdorf, the current conductor at the time. It said simply that “Gino Cioffi would no longer be participating in recording with the Boston Symphony Orchstra”, no notice to Gino, just the note on the BB. A period of time passed while Leinsdorf was on vacation. Upon his return and conducting a rehearsal, Gino Cioff, dressed in a new black suit with a tie, quite formally for a rehearsal, was awaiting him, standing up at his position in the winds. He said, (in his way, as his English was very poor,“Hey you!”

Leinsdorf looked in his direction and Cioffi repeated, Hey You! “If its a good enough for Toscanini, itsa  good enough fo you!” Then he sat back down. Nothing else was said, and Leinsdorf said nothing.While I was not present, Buell was, and I can hear Cioffi, who had played Principal clarinet for every major conductor at the time was not about to take an insult as impersonally issued as was Leinsdorfs.

Of course, the issue was pitch.Cioffi was known for playing quite flat.

The pitch of the BSO at the time, according to Buell Neidlinger,(and others) started at about 444, and frequently by the end of the rehearsal or the concert it would typically rise to about 451. Or higher. Those of you who know, know that  strings can tune high,  for brilliance, and frequently some winds cannot make that pitch, which was the case of Gino Cioffi.(The question which remains in my mind is why wasn’t an adjustment made for him? We are talking about a great player and perhaps the finest orchestra. It’s a curious, as Gino might say.)

The second story concerns one of Ginos students, who invited Buell Neidlinger to one of his lessons. When they arrived Cioffi had not, and while waiting they looked at a thick piece of glass upon which there were three reeds, one marked with a #1, another marked with #2, and the third marked JC.

When Mr Cioffi arrived, they asked him about the reeds. He said that the one marked #1 was a good reed, the one marked #2 was a better reed. They asked about the one with the JC on it. Cioffi replied, datsa reed for me, its a marked JC, Jesu Christ, who is Gino Cioffi ofa da clarinet!”

I experienced many of the Gino stories myself, but these two are new.

Thanks to Buel Neidlinger,a great player. A dear friend.

stay well, keepupa  dapractice.

sherman


Franz Joseph Haydn,1732-1809, surprising clarinet

June 27, 2010

One always learns about Haydn from a very young age. He is frequently remembered by the young musician as the Father of the Orchestra, or (Papa Haydn),and indeed he was.(Unless we got back to Monteverdi, who first really wrote for the orchestra as such, but that is for another article.)
But, few of us know about his original writing for the clarinet.
While there is no original concerto, certainly no sonata, or original chamber music,save for the Haydn Octets, there exists some of the most surprising clarinet writing in one of his longest works, “The Creation”. Composed over a two year period at the end of the 18th century, 1796-1798, it is one of Haydns longest works, based upon Genesis, with references to Miltons, “Paradise Lost”, the opening of the work, specifically titled, “The Representation of Chaos”contains music which sounds much more like Wagner than Haydn, with unheard of dissonances and really lovely music for both the first and the second clarinetsist of the orchestra.
Here is a performance of the “Representation of Chaos ” from “the Creation:

This recording is about 5 inutes long and the music for the clarinet occurs near the end of the movement.
Recently, I was given a gift of an original work of Hayd, entitled,
“24 Minuets”,Hob.IX:16. There is only one copy of the parts of this original music for orchestra, now in the Berlin Staatsabibliothek, but coming from Haydns publishers, and included in the 1839 thematic catalog of his works, where he listed it as XXIV Minuetten f Orchester Comp. in London 1791-1795.

That is quite enough of music history, but the fun is in the listening , featuring the clarinets in solo and soli passages, which are quite beautifully played.13 No. 13 In A Major.  Music written for our clarinet. The solo in the Minuet if most probably played on an Oehler System clarinet, different bore, fingering,harder to fill with air, but lovely sounding.

Stay well, keep practicing , and enjoy.

sherman


Kalman Opperman, 1919-2010

June 23, 2010

Kalmen Opperman, a master clarinetist whose intensive teaching methods helped mold some of the top players of the last 50 years, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 90.

The cause was complications of congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Roie Opperman.

Mr. Opperman began his professional career playing for ballet and Broadway, but it was his relentless pursuit of musical perfection and highly personal teaching methods that drew generations of students to his studio.

“He was the elder statesman of the clarinet,” said Stanley Drucker, who was the longtime principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic until his retirement last year.

In his quest for excellence, Mr. Opperman became an expert in the mechanics of the instrument and often fabricated tuning barrels and mouthpieces, but only for his students. He wrote a series of widely used technical studies and the first authoritative guide to making and adjusting clarinet reeds.

Perhaps his best-known pupil is the international soloist Richard Stoltzman, who had just completed a master’s degree at Yale in 1967 when he sought out Mr. Opperman for instruction on reeds — the two-and-a-half-inch-long pieces of cane that are the obsession of most players, a passionate fraternity of tinkerers.

“I came to him with a sense of entitlement, to take my place in the music establishment,” Mr. Stoltzman said with a laugh in an interview. “He had me play a little. Then he said, ‘Yeah, well, you don’t really know where the holes are on the clarinet yet.’ It was then that I realized I would be a lifelong student.”

Mr. Opperman was single-minded about extracting the most from those he taught. To that end, Mr. Stoltzman said, he composed wry epigrams and taped them to the walls of his studio, which gradually expanded to fill much of his apartment on West 67th Street in Manhattan. Among them were, “Everyone discovers their own way of destroying themselves, and some people choose the clarinet.”

Larry Guy, a symphonic player, teacher and author of books on reeds and embouchure development — the taut formation of the lips around the mouthpiece and reed — was already an established player when he went to Mr. Opperman to correct problems with his right hand.

Instead, Mr. Opperman identified embouchure problems. Over three years, Mr. Guy’s embouchure was restored, and the hand problem vanished.

“People went to him to clean out all the clutter and the dust in their playing,” Mr. Guy said. “He saw things that other people didn’t see. And he had great ears. This made him a great diagnostician.”

Kalmen Opperman was born on Dec. 8, 1919, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and grew up in Spring Valley, N.Y., attending high school there. His parents, Hyman and Rose, were immigrants from Austria and Poland. His father, an artist and flutist, became his first music teacher. As a teenager, Mr. Opperman studied with Simeon Bellison, the principal clarinetist of the Philharmonic from 1923 to 1948.

From 1939 to 1943 he studied with Ralph McLane, a revered player and teacher who later became the principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Through McLane, Mr. Opperman grew to exemplify what is known as the French school, with lineage that dates to the Paris Conservatory in the late 18th century.

In 1938, Mr. Opperman successfully auditioned for the West Point Band , where he played for three years, ultimately serving seven years with Army bands.

His Broadway career followed, including nearly two dozen shows as principal clarinet, the last being the original production of “La Cage Aux Folles” in 1983. He was also principal clarinet for Ballet Theater (later renamed American Ballet Theater) and for the American tour of the Ballet de Paris. He taught and lectured widely, at symposiums and universities around the country.

Mr. Opperman was married three times and divorced twice. After an early marriage, he wed the former Prudence Ward. Their children, Roie Opperman, of Manhattan, and Charles Opperman, of Chappaqua, N.Y., survive him.

Also surviving are his wife, the former Louise Cozze, and his brothers, George, of South Bend, Ind., and Melvin, of Orange County, Calif.

Opperman students often found that lessons meant to last an hour could go on for four. Mr. Stoltzman recalled spending1 at least a week in the Opperman apartment some years ago, rising early for “a farmer’s breakfast” and then beginning the day’s instruction.

“He would deconstruct you,” he said. “He would expose your false attitudes about things. But at the end, he would restore you to a whole and make you feel that it was all still possible.”

(New York Times)


Tripling on clarinet, bassoon,and saxophone

June 18, 2010

Hi Mr. Friedland

– I’ve recently bought a Selmer 9 from 1962 with a Leblanc 2L mouthpiece and am having problems with the short 12ths which seem rather extreme. As a bassoonist/saxophonist I am having to work hard on my embouchure but with the top in tune the bottom is too sharp to lip down. I’ve tried reeds as hard as Vandoren 3.5 which were a nightmare so am experimenting with Rico Royal 1.5/2/2.5. The 1.5 is lovely in the lower register – too thin on top and I’m sure you can guess the rest. Any advice re mouthpiece etc would be helpful. After reading your column and looking round other sites I am thankfully and successfully using a double-lip embouchure (also on soprano) – and I was always told that to use a double-lip embouchure on a single-reed instrument was pretty much the greatest crime against humanity possible….!! Thanks – Nick

Hello Nick:

First, get rid of the Leblanc 2L mouthpiece, which was never known for being special in any way but to provide a space to fill in the clarinet case. Nowadays, the Leblanc has gained all kinds of attention,mostly because it is really much better, but still fills the space in mostly Leblanc clarinet cases. I recall that 10M as being quite good, but I remember it coming with a Leblanc clarinet, which doesn’t make it hard to play on any other clarinet, but not specifically your Selmer Series 9 .

You are a bassoonist/saxophonist, and it seems to me that you hear quite well, so it is time to get a better mouthpiece for your series 9. You may like the Selmer C*, a personal favorite of many players, or a newer Selmer, a C85, with an opening of 120, which is not really that open, but I remember that it seemed to play quit well, though I played it on a Recital, for which I had learned it was originally made. Both would improve the intonation a bit. Write to Richard Hawkins who, while not a doubler knows as much about mouthpieces as anyone. His are the best I have ever played and they are meticulously finished, and, well, he knows.
He also has another thing going for him which is my next recommendation to you, as a doubler. He plays only on Legere synthetic reeds, in which he has assisted development, and he is a superb player. His website includes impressive examples and they are all made on a Legere synthetic, which incidentally are used by many many doublers. The Legere is the most consistent synthetic reed on the market. I would ask him for a recommendation as to strength, but I would say that you will be happy with a #2 in strength, perhaps 2.5

As far as lipping up or down, that is a very thankless practice and I feel really not necessary. The Series 9 did have some intonation problems, since it was the first in a series, but a better made mouthpiece and a good synthetic will help you , I think.

As to the double lip embouchure,as you have learned, it is simply the very best , most natural embouchure you can use, and my recommendation is but only one in a long line of players who prefer this natural way of playing. As Bogart said in”Casablanca” when asked why he was there , “I came to take the waters”, receives the answer, “there are no waters”, and replies, “I was misinformed”. Double lip rocks in todays parlance.

Good luck and play well.
sherman


The California Custom Clarinet, (new Buffet photo)

June 17, 2010

Hi once again, Dr. Friedland.

It must be said that I cannot thank you for your comments and your insights enough.

You have mentioned in the past about the impressivens of the Lyrique from Ridenour, but if the net for instrument selection is casted with less sensitivity for the price, we find other firms such as Patricola, Taplin and Weir and others who makes clarinets geared towards a more niche market. Of course, when one is willing to invest such capital into a Clarinet, the best that the major brands such as Leblanc Symphonie and so forth comes into play as well in selecting an instrument.

I have to ask what would you do when the budget is not of considerable concern and that one is merely choosing an instrument for a lifetime of enjoyment? With instruments at this caliber, having something that is customized to one’s own tastes seems to be of more importance, and this is where one would hesitate on what to choose. It is a rather vague question, but the thought of being amongst those that have to pick a good apple out of a lot of R-13 for example gnaws at me, while the other end of custom order something that you’ve not seen in person is a hair-raising exercise.

What to do to not get lost?
Yours Truly
F L

Dear Franklin:
Thank you for your question concerned with purchasing clarinets, specifically with two conditions: one, not being concerned about budget, and two, how to choose among those clarinets available?

This question brings many answers to mind. As a young clarinetist, I always wanted to play a Selmer Paris clarinet and when I got mine; first a set that had been taken into the country in a suspect manner(the names had been filed off both clarinets), I was for a moment satisfied and happy. However I did not know anything about the quality of an instrument, a particular instrument and not much more about Selmer, other than the desire of ownership. I was perhaps 17 or so, and what could I know? I had a good ear, but most certainly knew next to nothing about response or timbre to say nothing of the tuning of an instrument, three important characteristics concerned with how to judge an instrument.

I knew nothing about the actual selecting of an instrument, and I suggest that this may be true for many many young clarinetists. Discernment in that area comes only after playing for a considerable amount of time in various ensembles. I don’t go to these clarinet festivals any longer and was never that interested. There is always a mob of people looking around and even more sellers of anything having anything remotely to do with the clarinet. So, what can you possibly learn by walking up to a booth, having a clarinet thrust at you, and blowing on it as others jostle past you, or hover around if you are a wellknown clarinet person. It may or may not be a good place to meet other clarinet players, but not for much else.

I have tried literally hundreds of clarinets, but always standard models of either Selmer, Buffet, Yamaha, and/or Leblanc clarinets, but no other, except for one: Rosario Mazzeo had asked me to go to the summer meeting of the Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain to demonstrate his clarinet, the Mazzeo System, my instrument at the time. During the playing and demonstration, he handed me his own personal clarinet, which he had made for himself and his particular clarinetistic desires. He called it “The California Custom Clarinet“.
I was very surprised to see first, that it was a Buffet. Surprised because Selmer made all of his clarinets, including those he had played in the Boston Symphony, never Buffet.

But there were many more surpises to come: The left hand keys, the g#, and A were quite enlarged, huge in fact. But what was the real surprise was the absolutely beautiful quality of response I thought I felt. Exquisite is a term that comes to mind. (Secretly, I had hoped that he would give it to me, but that hope was dashed. ) It was at first playing an absolutely wonderful instrument, silky in quality. That is my only experience with a custom made instrument. Here is the actual Buffet California Custom Clarinet which I played so many years ago:

Mazzeo System Clarinet in B-flat by Buffet-Crampon and Cie., Paris, 1970

NMM 5834. Clarinet in B-flat by Buffet-Crampon and Cie., Paris, 1970 Upper section of clarinet by Buffet-Crampon Side view of upper section of Buffet-Crampon clarinet Lower section of Buffet-Crampon clarinet

As far as customizing the instrument, you could only change the position or add keys for facilitation. Reboring is the job of only a few specialized craftsmen, those of Ridenours caliber.

If cost is not a consideration, I would rely on advice from those you respect, trying the instrument yourself for a good amount of time, as one can tell nothing about an instrument upon first playing.

I have a dear friend who was one of the great french horn players anywhere, Tom Kenny who played Principal in the Cleveland Orchestra for many ears and the same position in the Detroit Symphony. Tom also collected hundreds of cars. I bought several of them from Tom.

He would always tell me,”you cannot tell if a car burns oil for at least 30 days of driving” If one takes that and changes clarinet for car, I think it works well. It takes a while for one to really know all the quaities of a particular clarinet.

Also, I would suggest that you are in unknown territory when looking for a new more select clarinet. You may like it , but if you acquire it, that feeling will be dissipated quickly, the law here it, the grass is always greener.

There is nobody to ask for advice, as you will receive opinion only. I received a note today and very frequently am given advice about the Wurlitzer clarinet with the German system. I have reports that it has some of the very same so-called problems of the French clarinet, but 10 times more expensive and harder to blow as well. Look here on the site for the report from the performaer who has tried both. So, ask all you can ask, every site, but you will never ever find anything but opinion, sometimes, considered opinions, sometimes just pure emptyness. One thing for sure, you will pay, through the nose, and when it’s time to repair, you are in tiger country.

lots of luck.

sf

I hope I have answered your question.

Best wishes, Sherman


Recommendation for a clarinet for HS and beyond

June 16, 2010

Hello Mr. Friedland:

my name is Manuela and I currently own buffet b12 (student plastic horn).I really want and I’m looking for an “upgrade”- a professional horn. Im going into high school and I’m looking for a clarinet that’s going to last me all the way trough high school and college if not more. I got offered a used selmer series 9 and I wanted to know if it is a good pro clarinet. I’m thinking it’ll last trough high school but is it a good horn to take to college?

thanks for your attention and help,

M M

Hello Manuela:

Thank you for your note with its question concerning your desire to upgrade to a “professional horn”. The Selmer Clarinet of which you speak is not your best choice for n instrument that will last you through high school and even further. Its ability to last is not the issue. The point is that this instrument was the very first in a series which changed many aspect of the Selmer “top of the Line” instrument and it was not as successful as were instruments which followed it.

The Selmer Series 10 or even better the 10S, are both better instruments, have more correctly proportional bores and can be purchased for about the same as a series 9 or 9*. I have owned both a series 10 and now a 10S and I have found them to be excellent and would recommend them to you or anyone wishing to purchasing a better instrument.

There are many for sale and I would direct you to either one before the Series 9.

Good luck to you.

sherman


“Clarinet tuning” Thus sayeth the clinician!

June 16, 2010

Dear Mr Friedland:

I have a Buffet Prestige that tunes very well (generally). Recently at my All-District practice, our guest clinician said (we were tuning) “You all know your instruments; you know which notes are sharp and flat (e.g. the D on trumpets is sharp so you have to pull the ringed slide out and the forked F# on oboe is blah blah so you have to adjust it). You know how to fix that.”
I’m curious as to how you know (on clarinet) that this note   is sharp or this note is flat. Do you just sit down with a tuner and run through scales, identifying these notes? Considering most clarinet tuning is an iffy thing that varies from instrument to instrument/person to person, I doubt there are “common” notes that are flat and sharp, right? Like, for example, if, unknowingly, my E is alwasy sharp, how do I discover that?
Haha. I feel as if I have caused confusion.
Thanks!
P.S. Do you have any Eb Soprano instrument suggestions/recommendations? I’m thinking about getting one for college. WD
Dear WD:
Thank you for your letter concerned with clarinet tuning.
Speaking of guest clinicians as you do in your letter, I wonder how such comments can be made by a person being paid to teach or demonstrate at a musical function. “You all know how to fix that” is strange. I think that what was meant was the following: There are certain notes on many different instruments which are inherently out of tune. Fixing these notes can be done in several ways, but the notes remain basically not well tuned notes. Or they are not good sounding, compared to the general tessitura of the instrument.
As to the presentation by your guest clinician, he was merely demonstrating his “chops”, his knowledge of what is taught to all MUSED. majors in most schools. All instruments are basically imperfect, these imperfections having to do with the harmonic series, the naturally occurring overtones and the particular ways in which musical sounds are made by instruments. His comments “You all know which note are sharp and flat” actually means that he himself may have learned , however has forgotten some or all, therefore his vagueness. (This, by the way, angers me. Why? Because he comes on as if he knows, but probably doesn’t, and also that he ought to be able to simply run down the line of imperfections in particular instruments. He did not do this, therefore that makes him an unsavory character, employed to enlighten, but simply giving you “the business” instead.

The clarinet has a virtual laundry list of notes which are not well in tune or are out of balance in timbre with the others. Please check this site for articles indicating the many problems that the principal clarinetists of orchestras such as Cleveland, Philadelphia have had with their instruments prior to using them in everyday situations. People like Gigliotti, Robert Marcellus, and Ralph McClean spent years with technicians such as Moennig in Philadelphia tuning and changing their instruments in various ways in order to get them in tune .

The ordinary Buffet best model is fun to play but has a myriad of tuning problems, which is just a fact . Selmers and or Leblanc , and /or Yamaha clarinet may have fewer problems with a new horn, but there are other problem such as the basic response, which heretofore had put players off from using them. What is in fashion also has a good bit to do with the problem.I certainly do not dispute of the popularity of the Buffet Clarinet. It is just an out of tune instrument, with more basic problems than any other top brand. In actuality, the clarinet which sounds like the Buffet, but with elimination of many of the problems is the clarinet made by Yamaha, a very pleasant playing experience, without all the tuning glitches of the Buffet.(In the 70s and 80s, I was able to try every new Yamaha that came out, and actually keep them for as long as I wished. I had some really wonderful experiences with the 64, the 72 and the 82 models. I recall there was less resistance, but still a nice experience)

Back to your letter which asks, how one knows the problems of the instrument. One doesn’t really know because what feels good usually sounds good, and specific tuning has a lot to do with all of the others in your ensemble and how your tuning, and your playing fits with the others. Sounds too general? Well, it is general, but if you do sit down with a tuner and go over each note, you will automatically tune with the tuner, and not check with the tuner. It is a very natural tendency to do this. It is impossible not to react to that needle. Besides that, does everyone in an ensemble have a tuner by their side as they play? Of course not, that would be ridiculous.

As to your question as to how does one knw, here are a list of notes and their tendencies on most clarinets and most certainly on the ordinary Buffet Prestige, or whatever. The low E is always flat, the b below middle C is sharp, the throat open G, A and Bb are also sharp, the Bb being the worst of all because the hole that vents the Bb serves a double duty as being the keys changes registers and also part of the Bb fingering.. I have found the fifth line F# to be slightly sharp, the high B and C to be sharp, the altissimo High F to be flat, and the altissimo high F# and high G to be wild and easily blown at least 20 cents sharp. While these are generalizations, they remain part of the answer to your question

What you do in your ensemble is to listen as dilligently as you can, then work on the problems you discover in your instrument. Tuning is both a science and an art, in that you have to learn to move as the line moves and your place within the harmonies and timbral function. It is well to know the science, but more important to learn to artistically move with the music.

No, you have not caused any confusion, but you speak of what is before you, the process of learning to play within an ensemble, no easy chore. As far as Eb clarinets are concerned, I would ask why?

best of good luck in your practice.

sincerely, Sherman