Looking at the plethora of available clarinets these days, virtually everywhere, traveling back more than a half century, one is swept away by the changes that have taken place. Certainly in Boston, but everywhere else as well.
Boston, however was quite special, because all of the members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, at the time(and now), one of the more sophisticated ensembles, with then and still, the best Hall in the entire US: They all played Selmer Clarinets, and had for many years. The section was all Italian, or portuguese: Gino Cioffi had just arrived, to take the place of Victor Polatscek, a wonderful musician, and of the night
These were his b est years and the facility of the effortless sound in Symphony Hall charmed the totally sold-out houses. Manuel Valerio, the diminutive second , who played on a Selmer A facing mouthpiece, with very hard reeds, had a gorgeous second. Pasquale Cardillo also played second as well as first in the Boston Pops, and Rosario Mazzeo , who also played a Selmer Bass Clarinet, and probably was the first player of the Bass who used a crystal bass clarinet mouthpiece. Mazzeo was also the personnel manager of the Orchestra, and had his office on the second floor , along with bis secretary, Peggy Burke, who compiled the program notes, who once threw me out of a rehearsal. Attending a rehearsal uninvited was forbidden: a union regulation, mostly because of the fact that if anyone attended the whole orchestra would have to be paid.
I had gone in to see Mazzeo, and tarried on the way up, standing in the back of the hall as they recorded widely spaced all over the audience ares, (the seats having been removed. I was an enthralled kid, lost in the sound, when I felt my ear being grabbed by Peggy Burke wno literally pulled me out into the hallway.
Back to the Selmer cclainet, the BSO clarinet section, and all of the many students of these players, all of whom played Selmer(Paris) clarinets.
The students all bought their horns at Rayburn Music, owned by Ray Sternburg, the son of Simon Sternburg, who was the snare drummer on the Boston Orchestra, also a chemist who made “Revelation Valve oil, which you could also get at Rayburns.
That was it, a virtual monopoly of Selmer clarinets, all the players and all of their student all played Selmer clarinets, without exception.
Yes, the Buffet clarinet was firmly ensconced in New York City, however the opinions of the boston gaggle of clarinet students was firm and unwaveringly Selmer, born and bred.
Of course,all of them used Van Doren Reeds, only Van Doren, which Rayburns also sold . They were 3.75 a box of 25 reeds, three or four of which played, the others saved for another try on a different day.
This was not yet the time of the forced purchase of Selmer mouthpiece and Van Dorens as well, if you were a dealer. The reeds became scarce and mouthpiece were sold to the dealers,on;y, if thyy bougt mouthpieces, as well.., the dealers were forced to buy mouthpieces.
If one was able to get to Paris, one could get to 56 Rue Lepic to the Van Doren place, and pick unmarked reeds for hours on end. When finished, they would mark the reeds and you paid a quater for each. Naturally, by the time you got home, they would not play.
One rainy afternoo, I was trying reeds without success, when Robert Van Doren came down to the room. He had a mouthpiece on each finger, which he offered me to try. They all plyed better than any Selmer mouthpiece I had, and I bought them all at some ridiculously low price.
I played them for years, losing them and finding them and ws alwaya happy with the VD mouthpiece, until I found my magic crystal, which is a whole other story.
All of these players stayed for many years in Boston, Cioffi, leaving when Eric Leinsdorf would no longer allow him to recorde with the BSO, an abysmal confrontation during a rehearsal..
When Cardillo retired , he was replaced by Peter Hadcock, an excellent player who had come from Eastman.Harold Wright also auditioned for second , won the audition, but refused because he wanted principal, which he got when Cioffi left, and then everything completely changed in Boston, and has remaind so changed to this very day.
Stay well, and learn Daphnes on whatever you choose to play
All the best, sherman