Part 2, of brands ,trends and clarinets

February 14, 2012

We know that Buffet and Selmer are in the limelight of clarinet suggestions or choices by students and/or teachers, who have always been quite important in the selection of a clarinet. There have arisen in the last thirty or 40 years, the graduate school for performers, people by many students and by many professional clarinetists who simply could not find a position in a symphony orchestra. Two things have affected that venue: one is the diminishing symphony orchestra. They are failing for lack of money or audience throughout the US,

This past economic crisis caused by the virtual failure of the bank regulation system or lack of it, and then the avalanche of failures throughout the US, and the world had its impact on the world of music, classical music, and of course, the Symphony Orchestra. So, back to the graduate performer program, which was a natural outgrowth of the lack of jobs for clarinetists, the failure of many orchestras and still the abundance of players, either advanced or professional, in need of a place to go, to tread water, and from this came the graduate performance program in universities throughout the US. For me , this is one of the sadder events in my memory. The time that it takes for a clarinetists to emerge, “ready” is a long stretch for most, and a horror story for those looking for professional work. The recording industry has helped(not) enormously, by sampling, simulation, enabling artists to simulate an entire orchestra by four or five musicians playing various keyboards. The competition the recording industry has added by the absolutely perfect recording dwarfing almost any actual performance in depth of sound, actually competes with live music. And of course, where to find a place to park usually ends the debate. Price for admission because of all of the above has helped and we, the professional clarinetists, either here, or on the march, helps make more of a mess, hence my sadness, and that of many of us.

So, one bandaid is the Masters in performance, the ARTIST diploma, or what have you in terms of “further study”. They seem endless , but offer little or no help in the quest for a place to play, a paycheck, some sort of benefits. All they seem to do in most cases is offer a place to “continue”, but not to stop and play the clarinet for your living.I find them basically repugnant(though I might edit that out)

And with “further study” have come the other clarinets. Because I was employed by a University in Montreal, Concordia, a large organization with 25,000 students, I was accorded special privileges by the local music stores, which consisted of trying any clarinet that came in and was not sold, which included every other decent well-made instrument.

The first of these in my experience was the Yamaha clarinet. Yamaha of course, makes everrything from motocycles to excellent grand pianos, and I first discovered Yamaha with the Yamaha model 64 clarinet. I took it home for an awfully long time, and it was a superb time to really trying a clarinet. Practicing it daily, playing in in performances and recording, and just having it)to try) for a long period of time. This was wonderful, and the only way to try a clarinet , really try one. I found the Yamaha 64 to be an excellent clarinet for intonation. The altissimo was made to be intune, ore than Selmer and much more than Buffet. The throat register was also much more even and the finish was excellent. The only fault (if you will) that I could find, was that it seemed to lack resistance. It was and I am sure, remains, an excellent reliable clarinet. I wish I had kept that instrument. Hoever there were many more to come. I susbsequently tried the 72, and the 82, in sets and they were just as good, having all of the same features as that first model 64, or 62. These clarinets have continued to minutely improve. All in all, the seem a better clarinet than almost any buffet, basically because that clarinet lacks consistency and therefore, cannot be reommended without a very good and sensitive technician to tweak and tune it

Perhaps my best esxperiences with playing new clarinets have come with the Leblanc clarinet. Currently I am playing n an older Leblanc LL, which I feel is,and was their finest clarinet. Previous, I first tried a Leblanc L27 with which I had a really great experience. There were simply no tuning problI kept it for more than a year and found it a superbly well in tune instrumentems for all the time and concerts I had and played that horn. Followi g that, I was able to purchase a set of Leblanc L7s from a person who originally played German system, or Orhler, (I never earned which), but he had had rollers installed on the little finger keys. Those also had an articlated g# and the seventh ring. That set was superb, and frankly I learned that all Leblancs that I tried or played were excellent. Of course, the set of Opus clarinets which I purchased from the principal in Kansas City were the best clarinets I had ever played. There was a card in the case stating that this set had been played, tuned and selected by William Ridenour who was at the time the clarinet authority at the Leblanc Company. These were better than any other Leblanc I had played as far as tuning ws concerned.

There was a hiatus of several years with the Selmer Recital. The Selmer representative brought one in and left it for me to try. This was the “fat” clarinet. It was slightly weightier, an absolutely splendid instrument, whicn had the flattest low F I had ever experienced. I never did get that vent key laterprovided, just played very solftly on that low f, which drove me crazy. But the rest of the clarinet was really quite beautiful and the A I subsequently received wasl also quite special. After experiementing with several different mourhpieces,I discovered that the Recial had a mouthpiece which seemed to be the same bore as the instrument, the C85. Naturally, I acquired many of them. They had three tip openings, the 105, 110, and the 120, which ultimately becme the one of choice. Excellent, even and beautifully sounding instruments were the Recitals When I retired from Concordia I gave the university my Recital set.

My final phase of playing and trying clarinets that were new on the market , was with the Ridenour Series of had rubber clarinets. All of these proved to have the finest tuning of any clarinet that had been massed produced and were made from hard rubber. I may have tried 30 or 40 of those clarinets over a five year period. For several years they were sold under the Allora brand by WWBW. For a while they were being sold for 595.00, complete with a mouthplece and two barrels. The tuning was the best thing about these instrument made from hard rubber, and the material does not or will not ever crack and is as stable a material as one can ever find. The one drawback to hard rubber is hard rubber. While it is dark and blends beautifully with all other instruments and works very well in chamber music situations, it is inherently a sweeter and more dulcet quality than is wood. Beautiful, but it simply does not project as well as a clarinet made from wood. I think that the arrival of the Lyric G1 made of grenadilla solves of of the projection problems that one may have with the hard rubber Lyrique. I tried the wooded Ridenour and still must recommend it as the finest wooden clarinet at the best price of any clarinet manufactured today. The one clarinet I tried over a period of time played most like my Bb Opus, perhaps better.

Aside from bells whistles,additional keys, bell drillings, barrel manufacture from exotic good looking wood, ligatures made form everything from leather, fabric, human skin, inhuman skin, the onlything left would be an incantation or spell on the inctrument, willing it against the evil spirits and personel managers and audtions. If there were any.

Stay well, keep practicing. Enjoy the music



Trends, brand names ; recent clarinet History.

February 11, 2012

Part One

While reading some of the comments from many of you concerning different brand names of clarinets,their various scales and other idiosyncracies I am reminded of my own experiences in the business of playing and teaching this lovely instrument for the past half century. Being somewhat a product of the New England Conservatory and Boston University during the 50s and 60s, the instrument to have and to aspire to and to own, was the Selmer Clarinet. Of course, times have changed, especially in Boston with first, the replacement of Gino Cioffi with Harold Wright, his passing and the evolution of the particular changing clarinetists in the Boston Symphony, the clarinet of choice in that city has changed to Buffet. Wright played Buffet and that seemed to become to be the trend in Boston.

Upon being discharged from the 4th Army Band in which I had enlisted,I returned to Boston, purchasing a setof Buffets. Then, upon purveying the performance jobs there, I was told that the only person with whom to study was the Principal in the orchestra, Gino Cioffi. I went and studied with Cioffi with my Buffets and he engaged in a year long sales campaign to get me to play his Selmer Bore 55, which was a full boehm, minus the low Eb. Cioffi, as I have written, was a marvelous clarinetist speaking little English but possessing absolutely the most facile technic I had ever heard .

Everything that he played sounded absolutely effortless. Most of his students odolized him. “Go-fors” were in abundance and all played the Selmer Model 55.Since the entire section of the Boston Symphony played Selmer, so went the entire city of clarinet students. There was no discussion and little help with any other clarinet.
Following a rather empty year of clarinet and instrument insurance sales, (yes, Gino sold both) The famous “hold up’a’your hand” story, promising a custom-made clarinet appears in one of the many Cioffi stories contained herein. It would have been funny, in retrospect it is giggly, perhaps a bit tragic.

His replacement by Harold Wright turned Boston and the Boston Symphony and the clarinet students on their ears. Wright had been a student of Ralph Maclane of the Philadelphia orchestra and a consummate performer, especially as to musicality and instinct. Richard Dyer , critic of the Boston Globe said of him“Although Harold Wright is a consummate virtuoso of the clarinet, you don’t so much listen to him as overhear him as he steals sound from silence; drawing us into a volatile private world of thought, feeling and dream.”

This is an accurate description of the quality he brought to the clarinet and to the woodwind section of the BSO. He also played the actual dynamics which were written in his part, carrying along the entire section with him. He was the most musical clarinetists ever heard and for 23 years was the glittering jewel in that woodwind section. And ,because he happened to play on another brand of clarinet, he carried his students along with him, and most every student in the area played Buffet. Wright had a very subtle degree of spirituality and gret intelligence and honesty in his playing. He happened to play a particular kind of clarinet, brand. But, he would have had the same quality on any instrument he chose to play. It was not the brand name of the clarinet that he happened to play, it was his interpretation of the music, the quality of sound was always that of a fine and sensitive musician.

The sound created by Gino Cioffi was all about Gino Cioffi, and it was very beautiful, however his musical parameters were quite narrow by comparison. It was always beautifully played and sounded that way, except when he played flat , which was sporadic, though quite noticable. This was Boston, and the pitch there was sharp in those years.

end of part one