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

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


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: