Full Boehm and Mazzeo Clarinets

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

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One Response to Full Boehm and Mazzeo Clarinets

  1. Dr. Friedland:

    I find the comment that Larry Combs founding your clarinet looking like a Christmas tree to be a bit ironic in our modern context (look at what he’s using today…), but aesthetics are matter of opinion at any rate.

    The matter that I find most poignant is the fact that the modern instrument makers are complicating the mechanisms further, and making acoustical design compromises in order to allow the lingua Franca of the Klose-Boehm reined in acoustically. The mentioning of Rosario Mazzeo’s works is quite painful for this observer, who does think that ergonomic and mechanical simplicity should trump convention, not the other way around.

    Sigh.

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