The Education of a Clarinetist

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.


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