Paul Hindemith: Kleine Kammermusik, 1922-24

December 22, 2011

Upon searching the files and music available on You Tube, I discovered a recording of this truly great work by Hindemith, and its meaning in my playing .
Not only is the recording very special and quite old: The Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, recorded in 1956, along with a lot of the most standard Quintet repertoire of the time, played by the first chairs of that orchestra at the time. William Kinkaid, flute and piccolo; John DeLancie, Oboe; Anthony Gigliotti Clarinet, and Mason Jones, French Horn.
I had first heard this work as a high school student, and was immediately taken with the very strong rhythmic motion of all the movements, specifically the first, discovered Hindemtith as well, his prolific output of the Sonata, the Trios, the other many chamber pieces and the many clarinet solos in all of his orchestral works.
I became at my level,a lover of this prolific composer of works for the clarinet, and featuring itin many of his works.And of course, perhaps like you, I set about learning this woodwind Quintet, which will take time, but will brear all kinds of pleasures and advances in your playing.
I learned later, that during the time of the composition of the Quintet, Hindemith would take the train every day for his work in Berlin. This forward rhythmic motion is the whole basis of the first movement. It was so hard, but always a pleasure to practice.
Later ,I was to learn that he wrote all the parts first, each one, then made the score afterward, a fact which astounded me at the time. Think of such a compositional technique. The Piece works beautifully and is built carefully as all Hindemith.

I was to perform the Quintet many times, with all of the Quintets in which I played, specifically the Milwaukee Symphony Woodwind Quintet. We used to play this in the schools and I would delight in giving program notes to all the students in the audience.

The work is in 5 short movements, the first, started by the clarinet, a part which is challenging, in both its execution and that it asks to very forward solo approach to the clarinet and has the impossible trill on the G#, which can only be played really correctly if you have an articulated G# on your clarinet, which I always had at the time. I still cannot understand why this simple addition has not becpme a staple on all clarinets. It makes almost all technical passage much simpler amd foolproof.If you don’t have it, you have to fake that trill and many others found in the standard repertoire.

This of course, is the problem of the hidebound traditionalists, players who occupy teaching positions and foster the plain Boehm, 17 keys and 6 rings. This system is the one that all choose to play because their teachers tell them. Wrong, in the strongest possible terms. I studied with two excellent players who happened to use the articulated g#, Rosario Mazzeo, and Gino Cioffi, who occupied half of the Boston Symphony Clarinet section for many years. I have written many pieces on both their playoing styles, both completely differnet, but incorporating the articulated G#.

On this 1956 recording, Gigliotti plays the trill as a five note grupetto, effective, but wrong. A trill is an accent, that is its function and not making an accent on that till is just incorrect, but it cannot be done unless you have the articulation. There is a trick fingering, which works on some clarinets if practiced carefully.(trilling the index  finger of the left hand) but it is much easier and musically correct to have an articulated G#. But let us move on. (continued)


The holiday market, and why?

December 20, 2011

Tis the season to be wary, and there is absolutely no wonder.
I have been scanning the market for clarinet prices for perhaps a dozen years. Yes, the prices do rise. We have a weary, though recovering economy, constantly buffeted by increases in prices of the newer clarinets and prices which are relatively stable for some others.

Of course, one has to always consider the condition of the instrument, and even more importantly, how it will play for you.(Of course, it is the terminology used by the seller that determines if one will even look at the ad.)
Where are you in the great spectrum of players?
I have often repeated my story of an almost new French clarinet which played quite poorly, but turned into one of the better instruments with a simple adjustment of a key, and slight leakage of a pad.
Is any used clarinet a playable instrument?
We really don’t know, however this question may be asked for a”brand new”, supposedly “unused”, “near new”, or “like brand new”

Each will play differently, and each player will get a slightly different response to the instrument.

This goes for brand new instruments as well. This is the great question aked by any auction site. Clarinets play differently, depening upon both the player and the instrument itself.I once had a person send me a dozen clainets for appraisal, my personal reaction(s) Not one of the instruments was totally free of needed adjustments and none were considered to be acceptable for reason of poorly placed or adjusted pads, especially poor sealing of the notes played by the long fingers of the instrument.
Some were able to be made “tight” in less than five minutes, but instead of taking the time, I just the whole batch back to the seller. I will experience only a certain amount of suffering. The state of  the repair and “techy” industry is terribly uneven, and in general, poor. If you are looking for someone who can really repair and maintain an instrument, going the inexpensive route will cost you more, has been the experience of many. Too bad.

The collision between list prices and reality is one of the more difficult choices in todays market. Do you think the newest clarinets represent a significant change from those of the past? They do not, for the most part. A case in point is the wooden Lyrique, an excellent player, simply based on an excellent example of the past, the Opus Clarinet.

And so, we are the victims of advertising. New or old materials are being used and abused by manufacturers, creating ever new sounding descriptions with prices to match.

Nobody pays the list price, is a good rule of thumb. The discounts are really all over the map, at least 20% to as much as 50%. Here is the basic difficulty: sellers of some “almost new instruments seek prices based upon the list price” Science fiction is my opinion.

Is it better to buy new?, almost new? or like new?

It all depends upon the instrument, and the seller and the player.

Some instruments are priced stratospherically, based upon a list price which never was, not in actuality. Tread carefully in these waters.

Stay well, keep practicing, and listen.


Best wishes, sherman