Learning, and Performing New Music

July 29, 2012

The educative process of a musician is much more complicated than it was even years ago when I was very active in as many musical areas as I could find They are,were ochestrel,solo, chamber music,teaching, both secondary and post secondary, admimnistrative,faculty member,writing and retiree, still learning . Lots of fun, lots of anguish,many mistakes. It happened to a gifted young clarnetist who was professionally trained and had the benefits of some very fine and noted professors, at many noted universities.

In working at being a musician, I have always championed the performance of new music. More than advising all colleagues on every level, to perform new music. I have encouraged its composition. I have had 53 pieces of music written or dedicated to me, and have performed tham all, with a great deal of pride. The composer who has composed the greatest number of works for the clarinet and for me is John A. Bavicchi, who is now about 85 or 90 and has written several Clarinet Sonatas, two Clarinet Concerti, A woodwind Quintet, dedicated to the Milwaukee Symphony Wind Quintet, instigated by yours truly, A quintet for Clarinet and String Quartetand a coupe of sonatas for Clarinet Solo.Most are published by Oxford University Press or by the composer himself, (available from J. Bavicchi 26 Hartford Street, Newton Center, Mass.) His syle is dissonant cumulative and difficult to perform, requiring real preparation. I have performed all, some with more or less excitement, mostly because I am a performer who reveres the sound of the clarinet above all other of its many facets. So what? Life is short, John and I are good friends. He has fought valiantly for his own style and has a style that is as recognizable as any composer.

This brings to mind the question of the talents of all of these composers, the new ones, the ones I have known and performed. Are there any who are as divinely gifted as Mozart, Monteverdi, Brahms,Bach or Beethoven? Uniquivocally, no We must all remember that these composers and perhaps a few others, were gifted in an almost Divine manner.In fact, these composers can justify the belief in a Creator, or Supreme Being ,or entity. Certainly they were vessels which were filled with music, and when filled, they passed on. One does not have to believe that, however other evidence is thin enough, the first requisite for
belief in a Supreme Being is belief. After that, the rest is easy.
They were really far above anyone who has come after them, as far as I know. I suppose I would or should add Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin.

Many are good craftsman, far better than I, but they are not the masters mentioned above.Neither is music education or the education of clarinetists.All one needs to compose and call himself a composer seems to be a machine or a computer application. The kinds of courses like solfege, counterpoint, fugue, even history of music are seemingly less important. Success is either totally unattainable or immediate and/or short lived.
There are some truly incredible craftsmen out there,but seemingly our generatuion has, or is, passing. Yes, play as much new music as you can, but practice the clarinet much much more.Love for the instrument and for music itself is what is truly of great importance in a totally complicated and sometimes confused world
stay well.


The Education of a Clarinetist

July 25, 2012

The laws of morality are also those of art” – Robert Schumann

The following is the story of a group of composers who led a spirited, if unsuccessful, battle to defend the tradition of classical music composition, during the 19th Century. The intellectual leadership was provided by the composer Robert Schumann, who also wrote for and edited a journal of music criticism, the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music). In declaring the purpose of his journal, Schumann wrote:

“The age of mutual compliments is gradually sinking into its grave. Frankly, we are not minded to assist its resurrection. He who does not attack the bad, defends the good but halfway. — Our purpose… is to remind our readers emphatically of the distant past and its works. Then, to emphasize the fact that the contemporary artist can secure strength for the creation of new beauty only by drinking from such pure fountains. Then, to attack as inartistic the immediate past, which is concerned merely with encouraging superficial virtuosity. Lastly, to help prepare and hasten the coming of a new poetic era.”
Schumann populated the pages of his journal with a cast of characters called the “Davidsbündler” or “League of David,” after the biblical King David, who played and composed music, wrote poetry, and slew the Philistines. The half-fictitious members of the Davidsbündler, who contributed articles and aphorisms to the journal, all had their counterparts in the real world, among those whom Schumann counted as his allies in the war against the latter-day Philistines: “Chiarina” represented the piano virtuosa Clara Wieck, who later became Schumann’s wife; “Felix Meritis” was Mendelssohn; and “Florestan” and “Eusebius” were two contrasting aspects of Schumann’s own personality. These characters also appear in Schumann’s compositions, particularly the Carnaval, which concludes with the heroic “March of the Davidsbündler against the Philistines.”

Schumann was very important to the history of music and of music education.
Not only is he considered the epitome of the beauty of the Romantic Period, born of Beethoven who had been nurtured by the works of HAydn and of course, Mozart, but his music, perhaps the best example being Carneval, Opus 9, for solo piano ecompasses all of the expressive beauty that we call romanticism. And his very life was thatof a Romantic. Forbidden to marry the love of his life by her father, the two finally did wed. Determined to imporve his own technique he devised a machine which succeeded in crippling his hand. Prone to the emotions of a Romantic, he also pushed that barrier to an extent wherein he threw himself into the Rhine river twice and finally died at forty in an asylum.

But learn and listen and play his works which are played by all clarinetists, Opus 73, the Fantasy Piece, written for Cello or Clarinet. Fairy Tales, Opus 92, originally for Oboe, but part of every clarinetists musical education. The work for oboe is abeautiful study in breathing and control, there being being hardly a breathing place. Still, with the work for Clarinet, viola and piano, we find perhaps the ost beaitufl of all of the chamber music.

Ever since hearing the two sides of Schumanns expressive Carneval, Florestan and Eusibius, and the Davidsbundlieder against the Philistines, we have been made aware of these two contrasting romantic expressions: the expression of sheer technic for its own sake, and the lyricism of the soul of the Romantic. It refines down to sheer technic for its own sake and the ability to express the beauty of the long line. These contrasts have become part of the education of every musician, and certainly of every clarinetist.
Can we, in our education as clarinetists become able to easily execute the most technical demands made by some composers and the ability to utilize the most subtle aspects of the clarinet, if you will, the ability to mesmorise the listener by sheer beauty of sound and nuance?

to be continued. The choice of institutions of higher technic and professors who espouse these abilities and can pass them on to their students. Does natural gift matter? And finally , Where are the ends to the education of the clarinetist? The incredibly disappearing job market.