Full Boehm and Mazzeo Clarinets

March 29, 2012

Subject: Mazzeos Answer was excellent, for him and for me

Year past, many players in the Boston area played everything on the Bb clarinet, utilizing a Full Boehm instrument. I don’t remember anyone sounding poorly on their full boehm instruments . Gino Cioffi, my teacher for a while ,used Full Boehm minus the low Eb, and sounded gorgoeus, (in the true sense of gorgeous much of the time), or even most of the time. The exception were when the orchestra, notoriously sharp in Boston at the time, would leave him clawing and a bit flat. But no matter where the pitch was, Cioffi never pinched or felt anything but righteous about his pitch. That of course, is the only way to fight a pitch problem, for any change in the embouchure or whatever and the sounds suffers. The idea of playing everything on one clarinet was well founded for it alleviated many problems, specifically those of switching from one clarinet to another, quite quickly on occasion. Cioffi would worry about his articulated g# key and would pull on it with his other hande before any solo passage in which it was employed. The odea of playing all on the Bb, full boehm with the low Eb was imported from South America, at least in the New England area at that time in the 50s and 60s. Guigui Efrain, a clarinetist from Argentina was playing around Boston at the time. He played all on a one piece Buffet full boehm instrument, with a crystal mouthpiece of his own design, actually made by one of the pomarico brothers, the one living in Argentina. (the other brother settled in Italy).
At that time Rosario was the Bass clarinetist with the Boston Symphony . It is my feeling that his design for his Mazzeo System clarinet was based upon the bass clarinet and its various difficulties in rapid passages.
The basic idea of that clarinet, if it is not already well known by many readers was that the throat Bb with its many problems, and various solutions was eliminated and replaced by the most correct fingering which is the A, plus the third trill key on the right hand side of the clarinet.
He designed a simple articulation which lifted the third trill key when any one or all of the fingers on the right hand were engaged. The trill key with the A key made the perfect throat Bb. It was extremely simple to achieve as virtually any finger on the right hand when placed would open this key. For every simplified motion there is always an additional action. You could not place any fingers down without getting that open trill key.Hence, you could not place any fingers down except fopr those which were actally assigned to produce notes, so the supposed shading or tuning which almost every clarinetist used were impossible, and for some that made the Mazzeo System Clarinet simply out of the question.
For some, that was the turnoff, why give up all of the unconscious finger movement you had used ? For me, it was not the problem. I found that it was much less complicated to use the fewest fingers to shade, for much of that shading had been habit, for extra movement which didn’t do all that much it took only the acceptance of the premise and it was both over and a new experience, knowing every movement you make playing the clarinet. Simply, I accepted his idea ansd incorporated them into my playing, It was neither long nor difficult. The other innovations were relatively simple.The middle b to c# was articulatd, eliminating any roughness in playing legato lines such as Bolero(in the opening solo). You will remember that the bell was straighter and lighter, making the middle B quite bright initially , but becoming much more even and in tuneas one got used to playing it naturally, instead of louder and with more resonance.Making changes in the embouchure to accomodate uneven sounding notes became a thing of the past and as a result, my playing became much more secure. There was also a covered thumb which became another way of smoothing ones technic. While I had a set of Selmer Centered Tone full boehms Mazzeo clarinets, I was able to perform with more surety. So, the full boehm with the Mazzeo system was my ideal clarinet.
What transpired upon the passing of Rosario Mazzeo was also the passing of his invention and innovation, the Mazzeo Clarinet. It had always been best in full Boehm though much more simplified models were introduced in order to please more players, but it was the wrong philosophy for the Selmer Company.Ideally, when the patens rn out, another or a few other manufacturers should have adopted the system. But,they did not, and as players had more clarinets to try, they did not include this wonderful invention. They are and were not extra keys, superfluous and easily out of adjustmnent. My clarinets simply never gave me any diffciulty whatsoever. I was playing eight services a week as Principal in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, One christmas week we played a childrens concert with both the Coc D’Or by Rimsky Korsakov with its clarinet candenza and Peter and the Wolf. Between ten and twelve noon, we played that program three times for children.But with time, These clarinets became out of style. The Mazzeo Clarinet is completely finished now, and the full boehm is coming right after it.
They are excellent instruments, faciitating all kinds of playing, but in actuality they provide more musical options for the clarinetist. For me, seeing but 6 rings on a clarinet is weird and incorrect. With that extra ring, your worries are greatly diminished.After Rosario left us, I myself became restless and play clarinets made of different materials.

But do not think that the currenb plain boehm is better. It is just much easier to buy,to make and is in profusion.Doesn’t make it right, or best.The fraternity of clarinetists, teachers find it in vogue at present.
Years and years ago, Larry Combs told me my clarinet looked like a Christmas tree. Being scrutinized by the others choosing reeds st the Van Doren shop on rue Lepic, I heard the question (in French), “Cor Anglais”? The meaning was clear. Regardless of what you play, keep practicing.
stay well, sherman

Berlioz and Beethoven wrote music to be played offstage,however, this is ridiculous, (but saves money.

March 24, 2012

Trying to think positively, I am reminded of the off-stage english horn in Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. The off-stage trumpet in Fidelio also is a famous work that needs coordinating. Someimtes, we have played works with two conductors and of course, there are many a piece from the Renaissence or Baroque Eras which use different groups of players in different parts of the hall. And of course, there are many theater pieces from bygone days in which the stage is divided into three levels,present, future,and past, or present prior and after. All kinds of examples abound, but this is something I think is quite new, though reflecting the meanest aspects of Charles Dckens characterizations.
As many, I have played in the orchestra or the ensemble for many many theatrical productions. Full or chamber orchestra down to a small ensemble. All musicians especially wind players, find this work to be attractive and sometimes highly remunerative.Earlier I have written of accompaniment for an entire show limited to five or six players making the sound of almost an entire orchestra. The many ways we sample and record music and in that way, we compete with our very selves for playing assignments. Sampling is the most striking example of self-competition, the result down the line always being less “work” for live musicians playing live music in front of an audience.d The The latest experiment in New York theater is taking place in a tiny, L-shaped third-floor room with water-stained ceilings and dirty gray carpeting that served for decades as a dumping space for props The actors are onstage a floor below, The music is piped in and corrdinated by the conductor using a loystick and a tiny screen

It is music by remote control: an orchestra playing not from the traditional pit wedged between audience and stage, but from a distant room or even a separate building. It’s an approach that appeals to some producers because it allows them to sell high-priced tickets to more choice seats, or to use the old pit space for bigger and fancier stage sets — and because technology means they can. Is there something Dickensian aout this scenario? One may wish to think so.

Artistic communication comes through speakers and television monitors. It can be a challenge.

“At “Carrie,” the conductor that night, Paul Staroba, waited for a red light to blink by his piano keyboard to signal the start of Act I. “O.K., we’re gonna go,” he yelled. Just above the light was a 16-inch monitor showing a black-and-white view of the Lortel stage, where the grainy outlines of actors began to appear. The video quality was too poor to see the precise movements of lips, but the musicians upstairs had trained for weeks to know every beat of the singing without visual cues. The ensemble’s two keyboards and three guitars were barely audible, their sound pumped through speakers in the theater; only the cello and drums provided a road map to the score of “Carrie” in the old storage room.”

“All we can really do is hope that we sound good,” Mr. Staroba said during a lull between songs. “You miss feeling the actors breathe a few feet away from you, to sense where they will start and end each song. But doing this for eight performances a week, I think we get the music pretty precise with what the cast is doing.”

Still, glamorous it is not.

The $75 million musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” has the highest budget on Broadway, yet its 18 musicians have some of the grimest quarters in the theater district: the band has been split in half and plays out of two windowless rooms in the basement of the Foxwoods Theater. The “Spider-Man” musical supervisor, Kimberly Grigsby, conducts the guitarists, drummer and keyboard player in one room, with two small cameras attached to her podium; about 20 feet down the hall, the brass and string sections of the orchestra watch her image on small screens attached to their music stands.

Ms. Grigsby uses a joystick on her podium to pan cameras inside the theater to follow the flying sequences in the show and to zoom in on actors during certain scenes. While she said she missed working in a pit, which here was converted to fit a hydraulic system for some of the massive sets in “Spider-Man,” Ms. Grigsby said that sophisticated audio and video equipment “make the music feel and sound like it’s being played right by the stage.”

Theater critics and audience members have not made a fuss over the piped-in music of either show, but the union for New York theater musicians is sharply negative about the sound-mixing methods.

“There is no way the quality of the sound is as good over amplification speakers,” said Tino Gagliardi, president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. “By not seeing a conductor’s head in the pit, or a pit itself, theatergoers may also be left wondering if the music is even live or whether it’s simply recorded.”

Mr. Gagliardi said he was especially appalled by the piped-in music last June for the televised Tony Awards; the band played nearly 50 blocks south of the Beacon Theater, which helped alleviate the crowding in an already crammed auditorium. (The Tonys will be held at the Beacon again this spring.)

Creating new orchestra pits for the “Spider-Man” and “Carrie” bands would have deprived the producers of ticket revenue because seats would have had to be sacrificed. Bernard Telsey, a producer of “Carrie” (which just announced an April 8 closing date), said that putting the show’s band in the mezzanine section was considered, but factors like lost revenue and acoustic challenges scuttled the idea.

So there we have it. We wre cramped, squeezed hidden, yet we must play our very best. Keep practicing, and stay well.

Principal Clarinets ,Boston, 60’s-90’s.

March 8, 2012

As many will know, this is a re-writing of a posting which had been inadvertently erased. I will restore now, with perhaps a few pertinent changes. During this time Gino Cioffi was Principal Clarinet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He had followed Victor Polaschek, a wonderful musician.In addition he was responsible for writing three etude books, one, rather simple, but musical, but the second incorporated many orchestral parts or parts from Pierrot L:unaire, the 20C masterpiece by Schoenberg, obe of the more challenging works of the repertoire. All of etudes are extremely musical.
Cioffi, was the best natural clarinetist I have ever heard. He played easily and unforced with literally a gorgeous sound, and had fingers as sure as anyine on either clarinet. He played a crystal mouthpiece, made by Obrien, a light reed and of course, played double lip. When he came from Europe he played with the mouthpiece with the reed on top. He took so little mouthpiece in, I often wondered if he took any but, he was the definitive natural clarinetist. Nothing ever sounded difficult. His only problem was that frequently, he played flat, or on the lower side of the pitch, sometimes quite flat. It was all of their fault. The pitch was very high, the strings brilliant, the hall was extremely reverberant. Well, frequently ,he sounded flat. But the section of woodwinds was high as well as were the strings. Cioffi played a set of Model 55 bore Selmers, full boehm, minus the low eb. Buffet also made him a special set, of which nobody has heard. But his grandon (of the same name) wrote me and asked if I knew a buyer for both his selmers and the set Buffet had made for him.
I had a set of Model 55s which included a crystal mouthpiece which I sold to a clarinetist in Germany. I asked for the mouthpiece and he sent it to me. It had something special about it. I sent it to Richard Hawkins for adjustment and he just loved the mouthpiece after he finished it, so finally, because I couldn’t get used to it, it is now in Hawkins possession, part of his cllection of crystals.
Crystals are great mouthpiece, with two or three considerations: You must have a proper one, you must have a duplicate, and you may not allow it to fall. None of the above is funny.
Cioffis performance as he aged, deteriorated. He didn’t have the greatest time either, and finally Leinsdorf announced that Gino Cioffi would no longer record with the BSO. Which must have been a terrible blow to him. (I have a friend who was playing in the BSO at the time)
Soon after, Cioffi confronted Leinsdorf during a rehearsal.It was terrible I am told, and he left soon after. He remains simply a great clarinetist.
Strangely enough, there were audtionfor sedond clarinet soon after. I auditioned, so I remember that there were many, and we finally got word that Harold Wright was upstairs in a small room. He played was awarded the job, turned it down and said he wanted first, which eventually became his for the next 20 years or so, during which time, there was a great stabilization of the woodwind section. Wright was a clarinetist who played all of the written dynamics, which had gone out of style with the previous group. So, pianissimo returned to the clarinet and Wrights was more beautiful than anyones, and his pitch was exact, his spirit and performance lyrical ,flexible and just gorgeous. He had studied with the fabled Ralph McClane,principal of the Philadeplphia orchesra.
This was of course, the glory period for the long playing stereo recording. More and more versions were released of all of the composers of symphony and the recording technic improved to the extent of the sound being more present on the recording than if one was listening in the hall.
The orchestras began to compete with themselves. Why take your car, fight the parking, and then go and barely hear a clarinet solo, when in the privacy of your own home, you could listen to it as if you were actually sitting next to the soloist. This competition provided many of the super loud sounds of many orchestral clarinetists and the agandonment of pianissimo, perhaps forever.
In any event, the pitch stabilized, as did the dynamics, and incidentally, everybosy switched to Buffet in Boston.
After the end of the previous century many more clarinets of high quality appeared and now all clarinets are employed by all of the different Principals, one supposes Leblanc is most frequently the clarinet of choice.
But the Selmer company have prduce many new models, the Recital being a fvorite and now the Signature and others, so a clarinetist no longer has to play one or the other. There are many which are better in tune, and manufacure.
Don’t stop practicing.
stay well, sherman

Leblanc L27 and and the Wolf

March 7, 2012

In recent postings I have mentioned my friend and accompanists passing and that first Leblanc clarinet, the L27. It had been at Arduinis in Montreal for a long time. Like many clarinetists in Canada (and the US, for that matter), I, we, had thought of the Leblanc clarinet, as simply a bad instrument, from the standpoint of tuning and manufacture, its reputation preceded any thought of even trying this instrument.
What first drew my attention was the inlay in the top joint, flush with the wood, which had the L27 on mother of pearl, or looking like that. The case was yellow looking and not attractive.
I asked if I could take the instrument to try, the permission given for “as long as I wanted”.
When putting the instrument together for the first time, I immediately noticed that the finger bed seemed fractionally smaller that What I had been used to , and not unpleasant. I don’t remember the mouthpiece I was using at the time, however it may have been either a Selmer or Van Doren, and, I had been experimenting with the LC 1 and LC 3 which were not yet in production. Larry Combs was then principal in the Montreal Orchestra. It must have been the late 70s, or somewhere around then. These LC mouthpieces had been worked on and they were very “big” in quality, and were very different. I had many of each. They also played a bit on the sharp side.
Any of the above conditions were not a consideration when trying this new clarinet, as the sound, or response, seemed to be more contained, and I thought the clarinet more resistant than my Selmers. I only had the Bb, but wasn’t doing much repertoire for A at the time. I started using this L27 for all my work in CBC radio broadcasts, the main reason being that the scale simply would not venture far from my tuning apparatus, which was a Korg 12, if I remember correctly. Each note played was eithin a couple of of cents of exactly 440 throughout the entire clarinet. These CBC bropadcasts were quite frequent and they had to be well in tune. If not, the breoadcast was terribly embarrassing and there was a big radio audience. I had been trained to play the parts perfectly and I worked into playing with no mistakes because there were no “retakes”. It was a concert always free and open to the public, but alays recorded wiht but a single testing prior to the recording and concert. I must say, it was a time of many concerts, rehearsals and I was playing all the time, which was great for consistency, as we all know.
This L27 became the clarinet Used all the time, for performing and for teaching. It was easier to play and much easier to play in tune. I could have purchased it at any time for 450$, but unfortunately for me, I didn’t It could have been the best clarinet I had ever had. But, I had had many.

KEN wolf, living in Brookline was my accompanist. He used to come and play a concerto with my orchestra and we would also have a concert of clarinet and piano. And I would go to Boston whenever I had the time. In the spring of that year we got a concert for the Medical School in Worcester, Mass, where he eas teaching . We had but a few rehearsals and played repertoire we had played for many performances. If we played a new work, it would be an early classical work, such as either of the Wanhal Sonatas. I would play clarinet and he would accompany on the Harpsichord. And we would play the second half usually consisting of two sonatas, a Brahms, and for this particular, that Sonata or Sonatine by Darius Milhaud(with Ken playng the piano). What keeps this concert in my mind was the consistent comments of Emily Wolf, his wife, who, while not a musician, was brilliant and had a fine musical critical ear. She kept on remarking on how fine the sound was, and the tuning between the two instruments. This was what really sold me on the fact that this Leblanc clarinet, that L27, was truly an excellent instrument.

Along those lines, I had a clarinetist in the Concordia Symphony Orchestra, a University community orchestra. He was studying at the University of Montreal and was not on a career path degree. He played beautifully, and naturally, I asked him what he played, and he responded, Leblanc. This furthered my impression of this instrument. “How bad can it be” went through my mind, for I had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the fact of Leblancs poor quality. While I did not buy that particular Leblanc, I have played practically nothing but Leblanc clarinets since. It was not a “worst” clarinet. It was and is most probably, the best of all the French clarinets, and much more consistent ,by far. Let’s see, I played a set of L7s, of which I have spoken before, a set of OPus, which were the best of the best, and am now playing an LL. currently in the case under my bed, with the Hawkins #1 mouthpiece witn the 3,5 Forestone reed on the mouthpiece. If I decide to practice, I will simply put it together and play it, as is.

Just a bit of a reminiscence of fun times gone by. Don’t you stop practicing.
stay well, sherman

What is bullying?

March 2, 2012

Hello reeders:

I recently wrote of a clarinet student who was bullied into buying or considering “a real mouthpiece”. This happened in a Graduate School.Was this bullying? read on.

With regard to the recent spate of articles and focus upon bullying, one has cause to investigate this rather repugnant term. While the word, indeed the practice is somehow thought of a rite of passage for growing young people, upon further investigation one discovers cases of suicides caused by bullying, having been spied upon with another , was driven to jump from the George Washington Bridge, leaving a note saying simply, “sorry”.

The young man happened to be attending a university in New York State and was a talented violinist. A person living in the room next door, set up a webcam and took a film of an encounter with another man.The person who set up the filming, meant no harm , as he stated later, however the damage was done. A man was dead. The second man is now on trial for invasion of privacy and various othe charges.Of course, the death of the man who was filmed, the film then shared with others in the dormitory, the snickering of those is all part of this fatal indignity. When an adult perpetrates this upon another adult,it is a crime, as it is now being tried. It can never ever be thought of as a passing phase in ones development.This is not one of the first incidents of the practice of bullying resulting in a suicide.
One might say, “oh, it never goes that far. It is an isolated incident”.
But where does this kind of an incident really start?

As a retired university professor with 35 years of teaching experience at all levels, and my wife, at a similar level,wish to say, it starts on the very first day of school. The very first time your son or daughter is teased or made fun of, depending upon the degree of teasing and the recipient of the practice, it is at the onset, an unprovoked assault upon the child.This practice is habitual in early school experiences and can proceed all the way to university, and yes, it can cause horrific results, as in the case of the university student mentioned above. It does with increasing frequency, and we are passing it off as a childish rite of passage.
We all wear a pink shirt or blouse to celebrate “bullying day”
The point becomes the pink blouse, not the childish bullying that causes a talented viollinist or mathametitcian or scientist to commit suicide. Or a basketball or hockey or football player. Or a clarinetist?
The focus must be on the act of teasing or shaming a young person who may be experiencing this truly damaging act for the first time.
It has to be called what it is, and it must be punished, or cutailed in some way as to limit this practice which we say, is rampant in many early schools. It does not stop there.And of corse, if unchecked, it can develop into a lifetime practice of increasing shame and fear and loathing that can result in worse than suicide.
It can and has resulted in bloody murder, even mass murder.

In Canada and in the US, there have been multiple cases of school children obtaining firearms from (usually) parents or relatives , taking them to school and selecting targets that caused them harm either real or imagined.
We read of these many examples and pass them off as somethng that occurs elsewhere, but never here in Cornwall or wherever we hang our hats.
Bullying in its final or earliest form is unprovoked assault, easily as heinous crime as any abuse, whether it be childe abuse in its many forms or just plain old “typical” bullying.
Unprovoked assault should get the perpetrator a stern warning initially, with a promise of time incarcerated. It can lead to a life of crime or tragic abuse, depending upon which end of it you are on.
So, please forget about those pinks shirts, as you already have, and let us as adults, realize that these assaults are what they are and try to curtail and finally stop them.

It must be done pre-emptively where it is easiest to stop and to notice.

Respectfully submitted,

sherman and Linda Friedland

keep practicing.