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