A pair of (Leblanc) Clarinets

The story in this particular case is almost bizarre, or actually is indeed bizarre. All preferences for almost anything are highly opinionated, as is this . But my first experiences with the Leblanc name was frought with indifference, and then , shock. I am a (north American) clarinetist, US Citizen, but working and living in Canada. I have a fairly comprehensive view of the clarinet industry, and truthfully say that I was given a very false impression of the Leblanc Clarinet by the people at Leblanc, themselves. When I was hired to be principal in Milwaukee, one of the first things that happened was a call from the Gerneral Manager, Bob Zigman. He told me that he had received a letter from Leblanc, US office llocated in Wisonsin at the time. They had offered 25,000 as a donation to the Milwaukee Symphony if I woujld play Leblanc Clarinets and the Woodwind Quintet of the Orchestra would be called the Leblanc Woodwind Quintet of the Milwaukee Symphony.
At that time, I was probably the youngest princpal player in any US symphony In any event, I didn’t know what to do, and being a clarinetist, a young one, I was very nervous. I had no idea what would transpire in either case. I had absolutlely no experience with Leblanc at all.But, I knew of its reputation, which at the time, was truly negative., It was a reviled instrument in the US, mostly because the president of Leblanc, Vito Pascucci, was trying to enhance the reputation of his Leblanc clarinet. The first thing he did was to havw many of the new Leblancs rebored in order for them to have “a bigger sound”. Accordting to Tom Ridenour, who was then the chief designer for Leblanc, “they had no idea of how to rebore a clarinet, using mostly the incorrect reamers and scarring the bore, and ruining the intonation of the horns” There are still many of these old leblancs around. Just look in your bore. If it is visibly scarred, you may have a problem. All of the above went into my head when I heard of Leblancs offer to the Milwaukee Symphony and me.

I thought I had litle choice but to write to my teacher, Rosario Mazzeo, of Mazzeo Clarinet fame, whose clarinet I played and ask him what to do? He replied with a long letter, which said, not, No, never Since the orchestra manager had left it up to me, I said NO, emphatically. (In retrospect, that could have been a mistake). Years later, while teaching in Montreal, I used to frequent Arduinis Music Shoppe. Anytime they would have a new horn, I would take it and try it for a while It was acourtesy I was accorded. The horn I was gven to try was a Leblanc L27. I noticed several things about it which surprised me. First, with my tuner, it was absolutely in tune, starting from the low E, not flat all the way through the clarinet. I had taken the clarinet to actually criticize it, as everyopne did with all Leblancs at that time. I was shocked. In addition, the clarinet finger placement was or seemed slightly more close together, and favored my short fingers. I started to take it to rehearsals and was very pleased by the responses from other members of the ensemble(s), which were uniformly com plimentary. Better sound, better in tune, more closely allied and aligned in timbre.Nothing derogatory. I kept it out for a long time and played several concerts of chamber music with it. I started to really admire this L27. That was my first experience with Leblanc. A few years later, I saw an ad for a set of Leblanc Opus Clarinets from the principal n the Kansas City Symphony. I bought them and played them for several years, met Ridenour through Leblanc and was introduced to his hard rubber clarinet. As I have aleady stated the ebonite, not a new material , was designed perfectly from the standpoint of intonation and timbre.Frankly, I sold the set of Opus because I needed the money at the time. These were the best intune instruments I had ever played.The Brahms Quintet in the Recording section of this site was recorded on my Opus A. Check it out.So too, is the Jan Jarczyk and the Copland Sonata.
Stay well.
best, sherman

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