The Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss

November 28, 2010

Last evening there was a wonderful concert available on Medici TV. It included The Four Last Songs of Strauss, the Second Act of Tristan and Isolde, both conducted by Claudio Abbado and with the soprano Renee Fleming. It is available at no charge after registering, which is a free service.
The sound and camera work are excellent and the only thing you need are a pair of reasonably good speakers to repeat this unique concert.

Renee Fleming is one of the great singers of her generation, and she is singing one of the signature woks of the 20th Century, by one of the more important composers of his time, Richard Strauss the most famous German opera and tone poem composer .

Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known particularly for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Thus Spake Zarathustra, An Alpine Symphony, and Metamorphosen.
Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the extraordinary late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style. Strauss was considered the greatest composer of the first half of the 20th century, and his music had a profound influence on the development of 20th-century music.
Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria, and internationally known as well.

But for a clarinetist (as are most of us), he is fascinating, for he wrote as much with a love and undersanding of the clarinet as he did for the French Horn, the instrument of his father, Franz Strauss.
As early as the tone Poem Til Eulenspiegel, he is well known for his extraordinary orchestration and his ability to set to music, every action of the underlying story.It was said that he could orchestrate even a glass of beer.

His most famous work for the clarinet is certinly Til Eulenspiegel, his first Tone Poem in which he jokes of the 12th century clownare set to a lovely musical setting, one of the first so-called Tone Poems.(The eb clarinet is the starof this work,playing the part of Til, and suffers the famous hanging) Strauss is also the composer of the Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon and orchestra, and many works for wind ensemble, certainly one of the great compositional legacies of the 20th Century.

The two operas he wrote at the beginning of the 20th centur, Salome, and Elektra remain popular and are frequently staged.
It his last work, the so-alled Four Last Songs are in some ways his most well-known. Written in 1948 just prior to his death he was not able to hear the first performance which occured after he died, performed by Kirsten Flagstad, and the Pilharmonia Orchetra with Wiluelm Furchtwangler conducting.
The Four Last Songs (German: Vier letzte Lieder) for soprano and orchestra were the final completed works of Richard Strauss, composed in 1948 when the composer was 84. Strauss did not live to hear the premiere, given in London on 22 May 1950 by the soprano Kirsten Flagstad accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler.
The songs are “Frühling” (Spring), “September”, “Beim Schlafengehen” (Going to sleep) and “Im Abendrot” (At sunset).

While enjoying this performance by Renee Fleming and Claudio Abbado, I thought back to the last time I had played these pieces, which was on the occasion of the weekend of the Assasination o President John F Kennedy, president of the US.
It was with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, where I was the Principal Clarinet.The soloist was the famous and controversial Elizabeth Schwartzkoph in the saddened performance on Friday November 23 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. We knew that Schwartzkoph had joined the Nazi party while a student, and we also thought there had been rumors abot she and Herbert Von Karajan,  the late celebrated long time conducter of the Berlin Philharmonic.Toscanini refused to hire the soprano because of her affiliation with the Nazi party

Whatever had transpired, it was a strangely exciting concert, particularly poignant because of its importance and the totally still and silent audience. A day the world will remember.

Playing the clarinet during those years with all of the very moving experiences of the time all came back to me as I heard and saw Renee Fleming last night.

If there are those who are yet unfamiliar with these beautful Songs, wrtiten at the very end of Strauss career, one needs to know them. We are talking about one of the great composers of the 20th century and one of his most famous works.

keep practicing. You can spend years on the Strauss Orchestral Studies. Certainly,I did.

sherman friedland


Peripheral Neuropathy

November 23, 2010

Dear Professor Friedland

Following cancer treatments, I now have peripheral neuropathy that renders the finger tips with very minimal feeling.   I need  suggestiions for easier covering of tone holes in clarinet.



Dear Sheridan.
First off, I think you are being courageous to play the clarinet after this kind of devastation. I know that we will all cheer you on in your quest to get closer to feeling your clarinet.
This is no easy problem you are talking about.
Minimal feeling can be assisted by something on your fingers which will stick to the keys, and when used repeatedly. some kind of adhesive as simple as it may sound may help you. And, it is simple to manufacture.
We have two grand daughters who are currenly into putting little stickers on virtually everything they own.
This may be in some elliptical way, a help to you. also double-sided tape or even that airplane glue which we use frequently and dries to a sticky surface which will pull almost in a sheet, when dry.While it is sticky, it may give you more purchase on the keys.
I know that I would go as far as to attempt   to adhere fingers to keys and tone holes in any way of which I can think,with any kind of substance.

Let us stop for a moment to examine peripheral neuropathy in a somewhat scientific manner.

Various causes are covered in the following, taken from Wikipedia

“Neuropathy” redirects here. For other uses, see Neuropathy (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Nephropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 G64., G90.0
ICD-9 356.0, 356.8
DiseasesDB 9850
MeSH D010523
Peripheral neuropathy is the term for damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system,[1] which may be caused either by diseases of the nerve or from the side-effectsof systemic illness.
The four cardinal patterns of peripheral neuropathy are polyneuropathy, mononeuropathy, mononeuritis multiplex and autonomic neuropathy. The most common form is (symmetrical) peripheral polyneuropathy, which mainly affects the feet and legs. The form of neuropathy may be further broken down by cause, or the size of predominant fiber involvement, i.e., large fiber or small fiber peripheral neuropathy. Frequently the cause of a neuropathy cannot be identified and it is designated idiopathic.
Neuropathy may be associated with varying combinations of weakness, autonomic changes, and sensory changes. Loss of muscle bulk or fasciculations, a particular fine twitching of muscle, may be seen. Sensory symptoms encompass loss of sensation and “positive” phenomena including pain. Symptoms depend on the type of nerves affected (motor, sensory, or autonomic) and where the nerves are located in the body. One or more types of nerves may be affected. Common symptoms associated with damage to the motor nerve are muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms. Loss of balance and coordination may also occur. Damage to the sensory nerve can produce tingling, numbness, and pain. Pain associated with this nerve is described in various ways such as the following: sensation of wearing an invisible “glove” or “sock”, burning, freezing, or electric-like, extreme sensitivity to touch. The autonomic nerve damage causes problems with involuntary functions leading to symptoms such as abnormal blood pressure and heart rate, reduced ability to perspire, constipation.

Many treatment strategies for peripheral neuropathy are symptomatic. Some current research in animal models has shown that neurotrophin-3 can oppose the demyelination present in some peripheral neuropathies.[11]
A range of drugs that act on the central nervous system such as drugs originally intended as antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs have been found to be useful in managing neuropathic pain. Commonly used treatments include using a tricyclic antidepressant (such as amitriptyline) and antiepileptic therapies such as gabapentin or sodium valproate. These have the advantage that besides being effective in many cases they are relatively low cost.
A great deal of research has been done between 2005 and 2010 which indicates that synthetic cannabinoids and inhaled cannabis are effective treatments for a range of neuropathic disorders. [12] Research has demonstrated that the synthetic oral cannabinoid Nabilone is an effective adjunct treatment option for neuropathic conditions, especially for people who are resistant, intolerant, or allergic to common medications.[13] Orally, opiate derivatives were found to be more effective than cannabis for most people.[14] Smoked cannabis has been found to provide relief from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy. [15] Smoked cannabis was also found to relieve neuropathy associated with CRPS type I, spinal cord injury, peripheral neuropathy, and nerve injury. [16]
Pregabalin (INN, pronounced /prɨˈɡæbəlɨn/) is an anticonvulsant drug used for neuropathic pain. It has also been found effective for generalized anxiety disorder. It was designed as a more potent successor to gabapentin but is significantly more expensive, especially now the patent on gabapentin has expired and gabapentin is available as a generic drug. Pregabalin is marketed by Pfizer under the trade name Lyrica.

Lyrica has been of considerable assistance in relieving fibromyalgia, recently formally  recognized as an actual illness.
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) therapy may be effective and safe in the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. A recent review of three trials involving 78 patients found some improvement in pain scores after 4 and 6 but not 12 weeks of treatment, and an overall improvement in neuropathic symptoms at 12 weeks.[17] A second review of four trials found significant improvement in pain and overall symptoms, with 38% of patients in one trial becoming asymptomatic. The treatment remains effective even after prolonged use, but symptoms return to baseline within a month of treatment cessation.[18]

I am sure that certainly your particular cause may be covered in the above, however as a clarinetist and (certainly not a doctor) I can only make suggestions which may seem terribly ordinary or even childish.
I like and have tried the tricyclic antidepressant, amitriptyline, which is called Elavil. And certainly the idea of cannabis as a possible treatment is quite interesting, even appealing. This drug has healing and restorative possibilities beyond all imagination, and certainly may help you in feeling the keys, the tone holes and in playing the clarinet.
Certainly, I hope that I have helped you in some small way, and again, I cheer you on in working on solving this problem.

Keep practicing,
Sherman Friedland


I received this commentary from Dr. Danny Silver, and it certainly a good idea, especially as Dr Silver says, if he can maintainpressure on the plateau keys.

Hi Sherman

This unfortunate fellow most probably has developed peripheral neuropathy from the drugs used for chemotherapy to treat his cancer. He may have partial relief or hopefully complete relief of his symptoms – altered sensation or pain in his hands and feet over time and the agents you’ve mentioned may or may not be helpful – only time will tell. I think that he might find a plateau clarinet useful as he would then be reasonably certain of complete closure of tone holes assuming he has applied pressure to the plateau keys.

Best wishes, Dr Danny Silver


Sticky Selmer in Singapore

November 6, 2010

Dear Mr Sherman,

I am a clarinetist from Singapore and have recently bought a pair of Selmer recital clarinets. I really love the unique sound of this clarinet. Just getting used to the weight of this fat clarinet now. But i really love it. As i was a Buffet player for many years i had very little or no problems with sticky pads. But i realize that the recitals upper joint especially is really noisy in the pads…. not in the sound but without playing and pressing the keys… there is alot of sticky pads that i hear. I am currently using a solution that i got from Ishimori in Japan. It is used for sticky pads and only applicable for Leather pads. So far… i have applied 3 drops of the solution and the sticky pad issue seems to be getting better. I am just wondering if this is a usual problem with Selmer clarinets or leather pads? Just like to hear your opinion on this matter.

Sincerely D C.

Dear DC in Singapore:

I certainly hope that you enjoy your new set of Recitals as much as I have. As you mention, the quality of response is unique in the Recital, due of course to the smaller bore and the thickness of the wall. I found the intonation to be perfect, especially with the C85 mouthpiece, which was designed for the Recital.Do you have the vent for bringing up the pitch of the Low F?

As far as noisy pads are concerned, you are speaking about the stickiness of the pads as you depress and/or open them. This has little to do with the material of the pads, or shouldn’t, as it is more a problem you have within your own particular playing habitude. What kind of leather pads do you have? Are they actually leather? What about the top joint? I have cork pads in my upper joint, leather in the lower and have never had a problem of the kind you mention. Actually these are the very best setup I can think of, visa vie pads.

It seems more a problem of the previous owner of your clarinets. Or , if they are brand new, there should be no problem with the pads being sticky unless the tester of the clarinet in France had a maple syrup sandwich prior to testing your Recitals.
I once played a recital in New Hampshire on a hot summer evening. It was very humid and the pads tended to stick. uring that concert I used some plain talcum powder which solved the problem completely.

Once again, I do not think any pad should stick unless there is something sticky on the pad. If that is the case, you must clean the pads, perhaps with the product from Ishimori in Japan. And, one more thing. Depending upon what you have eaten prior to playing your clarinet, a residue could be left on the pads, making them sticky. Especially in the upper joint, the first part of the horn receiving the sticky residue.

I hope this helps. Good luck, sherman

Confusion about my Buffet Clarinet

November 4, 2010

Dear Mr. Friedland –

I’m sure you probably get many questions about the Evette & Schaeffer Buffet Crampon clarinets, since so many people seem so confused about them. As I progressed on the clarinet in high school, my parents bought me what they thought was a Buffet clarinet. I’m rather confused about the brand of my clarinet.

The clarinet came in a hard case with blue velvet lining. It came with two different barrels. On the top joint of the clarinet is an oval. Above and outside of the the oval are the words “Master Model” (the words follow the curve of the oval). Inside the oval at the top are the names “Evette & Schaeffer”; centered inside the oval is the word “Paris”; at the bottom inside the oval

is the word “France.” Outside of the oval, following the bottom curve of the oval are the words “Modele Buffet Crampon.” This same logo appears on the lower joint of the clarinet and the bell. A serial number (K9463) is engrave on the back of the top and bottom joints, at the bottom. Also at the bottom on the back of the bottom joint, right above the serial number, are engraved the words “made in France.”

Now comes the confusing part. On each of the two barrels which came with the clarinet, there’s an entirely different logo. This logo has an engraved lyre which is on top and outside of an oval. Inside the oval, at the top, following the inside curve of the oval is the name “Buffet”; centered inside the oval are the words, in cursive, “Crampon & Cie.” Inside and at the bottom of the oval are the words “A Paris”, following the curve of the oval. Beneath, and outside of the oval, are joined cursive letters “BC”, and beneath that are the words “Made in France.”

So my question is: is this a Buffet clarinet, an Evette & Schaeffer Buffet clarinet, or what is it? All I know is that it has the most wonderful tone. I recently had it completely overhauled – all it needed were new pads and corks and a general checkup. It has no cracks – I’ve always taken excellent care of it because I know my parents had to really scrape to provide me with a good clarinet (or what we all thought was a good clarinet?).

Since I had to have a root canal done on a front tooth and had to have a crown put on, I’m not going to be able to play the clarinet anymore; the crown just wouldn’t take the pressure (plus I no longer have health insurance and so can’t afford to damage the crown). I’d like to sell my clarinet – I’d like to see it in the hands of a good student who would appreciate it.

Where would I go to get my clarinet appraised? I’d like to find out what it’s worth. Are there people who appraise only musical instruments? I’ve seen Evette & Schaeffer Buffet Clarinets on eBay, but none that match mine. Plus, my clarinet’s case is like new; some of the cases I’ve seen on eBay are in terrible shape. My clarinet is still shiny and new-looking.

Thank you for any information you can give me.

Sincerely yours,

Dear Kathy:
Thank you for your letter about the clarinet with the doubtful provenance. I can give you as much information as I can, but as to the actualy beauty of the clarinet, it’s in intonation, its bore, its basic playability in the hands of a clarinetist, there is nobocy who can give you conclusive comments, because it is a matter of opinion based upon a combination of the different players who may evaluate it.
Ont thing for sure, it is a Buffet Clarinet, but not the R-13 or the Prestige, or others; It is an Evette-Schaeffer Master Model which is a cut below that of the highest and best Buffets. Shiny doesn’t matter, but condition of the body, pads, bore, springs and corks do.
To my understanding, all of the clarinets manufactured in France by Buffet are placed in one style or another. The Evette Schaeffer is not the highest level, however someone might find it excellent. All of these Evettes fall below the quality of the first-line Buffet, and there are many who state that their grading system is highly inaccurate. Be that as it may, Buffet Crampon clarinets are those, everything lower than that can be almost anything.

Barrels for clarinets are made literally in every grotto in France, and none can qualify for inclusion into the fantastic category box.
Again, it is the job of the particular appraiser or evaluator for a declaration as to quality and playability..

I will now refer you to the article preceding this one, which gives hints on selling your clarinet.It concerns Leblanc clarinets, but with the name change, it works equally well for the Buffet. The philosophy of the company is questionable, calling all of its products,Buffet-Crampon, but differentiating wildly between them. In other words, they allow so much depth in perception, giving the retailer the ability to sell Buffets at all price levels, without actually stipulating the quality. It’s questionable at best and I find it very frustrating personally. While I find an excellent Buffet to be a very good instrument, they are few and far between, wildly fluctuating between instruments. Your Buffet-Crampon Evette and Schaeffer, Master model, is just that, and nothing more. Perhaps that is enough, or not.

good luck, sherman

Selling your used clarinet,(and for all who are interested)

November 2, 2010

Dear Mr Friedland:
Hello, I am a grandmother who has just realized that I most likely will not be playing my High School clarinet ever again! I have a Le Blanc Dynamique I believe was made in the early 1950’s. It of course needs new pads, etc. but other than that is in good condition. The case is also in good condition. I have been thinking of selling it on Ebay, but don’t know it’s value. Can you give me any advice please? Michele

Hi Grandmother Michele:
Thank you for your note concerning selling your clarinet on Ebay.
The Leblanc Dynamic clarinet is an excellent instrument, by and large, but one of its most salient points is that is has a larger bore than the smaller bored instrument which came after this model, and that bore is quite popular with those who play jazz. The reason is simple and basic. it is hearsay, but hearsay sells many things on todays market, as you must well know.

I think I will respond to you and others who may wish to sell on ebay, as I have some experience with this auction. The first thing of which you must be immediately aware is that the first rule of an ebay is CAVEAT EMPTOR, which means buyer beware, which actually is for sellers as well. With that in mind, it is safe to proceed. Go to ebay where you will be asked to register,( which I think is without any charge). You pick a user name and a password and then you continue into the selling area, which is plainly marked. The category will be of course, Musical Instruments, then further, the key of the instrument and the brand and then the age and whether or not it is used.
After that, you need to establish a starting price, the length of the auction and if you wish to sell only for a certain price. In that case, you establish a reserve price, under which the clarinet cannot be sold. This is your problem because it entails the price you paid and what you expect to get from the instrument, which of course depends upon the condition and the basic playability , which can only be determined in actuality by a player, however that is the grey area on ebay. How does this instrument actually play is the question for the sages of the ages, but cannot be answered on any auction site. Suffice it to say, that basically this was a better instrument from an excellent French Company, Leblanc, Leblanc now has been absorbed by the Selmer Company and is called Leblanc-Selmer, but the company making the instruments in France is still there. Leblancs are also made in the US. but those are of a lesser quality.

Continuing your selling process, you must supply two things which are crucial to you: photos of the instrument, and a suitable description.
You can go to the very same place and look at all of the Leblancs that are for sale. There you can determine the length of your auction and get a good sampling of all kinds of descriptions of Leblanc clarinets. You can usually come up with a good description of the instrument and all other factors in the selling.

After this, which will take a while, you will be asked to list your instrument. This will take all of your information, price, make, description, condition, auction length, etc and publish it on ebay. It may take a while but that is how it is done. Ebay has a rather scurrilous reputation, which is not necessarily deserved. Take care here, as you would in any auction, and you will be fine.
Good luck.Be patient.
best regards,