The Ultimate Fiscal Cliff: Music

January 3, 2013

The term fiscal-cliff has gone completely viral and is now a catch phrase, pertaining mainly, to the totally dysfunctional and just plain mean US Congress, or more defintively, the US House of Representatives, the GOP lead group which seems to mirror the very disintegration of the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln. We know all we don’t know about the precipice, but as musicians, we have lived on that promontory for much of our lives.

We h=ear and read about the demise of the Symphony orchestra in the US, at the very least, most of them. When the Philadelphia Orchestra is in crisis, that is big trouble. And many others as well I started to write an article which would list the failing symphony orchestras, a profession for which I was trained and worked in and out of, for my life. But, upon consulting the internet, I was confronted at first by an article in ,none other, than Forbes Magazine, which stated that the Symphony orchestra can only be saved by discontinuing or diminishing their most important product,concerts, because concerts cost the symphony orchestra most of their budget. If Forbes for real? That would be analagous to removing your heart because you have chest pains. Please. Diminishing or cutting concerts is like suicide for symphonic music in this country and in Canada, as well.

It is not difficult to trace the difficulty within the organizations of symphonic music within North America. There is simply not enough of an audience that wants to hear symphonic music enough to pay for it. The movies, Sports of any kind, Rock Concerts, any Pop concert, affords the possibility of getting together with friends, getting out of the house, getting high, and a kind of euphoria which is not unpleasant, and of course, it puts off practicing. As a result, there is much more interest and enjoyment to be experienced by things that you know, or that you think you know. And ,if the rest of your friends go, why shouldn’t you?

But, within our school districts , music is not a favorite subject, nor is listening to this increasingly strange sounding classical music, of which I and many of the readers have spent a lifetime learning. I started playing in high school and was studying the Bonade Book of Orchestral Studies for Clarinet in my second year. I think I still know he whole book, every single page,even though my fingers have forgotten as has my mouth, but that is a whole other article. Of course, the Boston Symphony Orchestra was our model, the place where we all wanted to either go, for concerts or to achieve, as a lifetime position. We knew all of the musicians, and called them by their first name (but never to their face). “Oh, I study with Gino”, or “I study with Jimmie”, or with “Roger” and all of the others. I used to run up the stairs of Symphony HAll to get the best seats for the POPS and I would actually drop a handful of pennies around the bottom of the second floor of steps, to deter some of the other runners, so anxious to be there for a good seat, to listen to the music and to watch the teachers. I cannot think of any more stimulating event than a symphonic concert. It was the best thing about everything I knew. And there were others just like me.

But, by and large, that is completely gone ,disappeared from the places a teenager wants to go. Nobody knows or cares about the Classical and Romantic repertoire which make up the body of professional symphonic music, It is not taught anymore within the Public Schools, or greatly diminished. The piano, the greatest of instruments was the pride of every home which could afford one, and they were very easy to come by. All levels, all tunings, and all that incredible repertoire by Brahms and Beethoven and Schubert. The piano has disappeared and been replaced by the guitar, which has a distinctly different audience, repertoire , cost and general interest.

The interest of art music has been destroyed or diminished by lack of interest and of course, money, for the programs. Those people used to comprise the great body of the symphonic audience. Who doesn’t remember the New York Philharmonic Concerts for Children and Leonard Bernstein, played in Carnegie Hall, attended by oceans of young people , filmed and spread throughout school systems the world over? This was a time to be stimulated by the beauty of symphonic art music, repertoire and concerts for the Piano and other solo instruments, the emergence of the long playing record, then even more availability through the development of editing, the compact disc and digital reproduction.

Where does Forbes Magazine expect the audiences to come from, if not from the educational system.

In high school, we learned about the tape recorder which became more easily available at affordable prices. One time my friend Dick Greenfield and I went over to Corleys house. Corley was our inspiring Band Director. We played an Entire band arrangement by recording each part over the other, And to our ears, it didn’t sound bad. It was doable. In actuaity, I have almost every concert I ever played recorded and on tape ,transferred to disc. That is a lot of clarinet playing. Some of it is even good.Because of my high school adventures, and because many musicians learn from their own recordings,(the cruelest of teachers) But, back to our subject. What has happened to our audience?

As musicians got the diminishing symphonic positions, they themselves, proliferated. Simply everyone played and loved their flute, their oboe, their clarinet, and pleasure lead to desire to be able to make music, this great pleasure, one lifes work. (NOT). First , the seasons were enlarged ,so as to support the large audiene and of course, the musicans. We all wanted full-time work, a family demanded that. So, we taught, and taught and taught, and now the students are drying up, or going into recording and yes, editing , or popular music, which has a gigantic live audience. And so ,music in the schools is virtually moribund, dead, or dying.

love, sherman


Clarinetist: Singapore

December 24, 2012

Dear Mr. Friedland,
Thank you very much for your amazing site of clarinet resources!
Having been a clarinetist for 7 years I am now looking to obtain an instrument of my own. I have just entered university, and as such playing the clarinet will now most likely be restricted to various performances every few months or so with the university wind ensemble.
The university does provide for the loaning of instruments, however, for every performance I would be using a different instrument (and occasionally a different model) which is a bit frustrating as it takes time to get used to the feel of every different clarinet. I also would like to be able to work on various solo pieces out of personal interest and challenge on the side.
I would hence like to ask for your advice on the following:
Which model of Clarinet would you recommend?
-Buffet-Crampon: In Secondary school and Junior College (Middle and High school respectively), I played on the Buffet RC, RC Prestige and Tosca Clarinets for 2 years each. I did like the feel of these and I’m leaning towards getting an RC Prestige. (Have tried a Festival once but did not like the very high resistance of the instrument.) However I have read your articles on the inconsistency of Buffet Clarinets and am a bit concerned. (Not sure if I have just been lucky in the instruments loaned to me?)
I would also like to ask if the differences between the bores of the Tosca/R13 family and the RC family of Clarinets are very significant? I enjoyed playing on the Tosca (as well as the RC Prestige), but the Tosca is rather pricey, and I have never had the chance to play on an R13 before. Have come across a Conservatoire model as well but am unfamiliar with the characteristics of this model.
Also, if I do get a Buffet Clarinet, would you recommend getting a wooden instrument or Greenline?
-LeBlanc: I had the opportunity to use the LeBlanc Bliss for a few months, however I absolutely did not like the feel of the instrument (no control over tone and even intonation occasionally, almost as if it was too free blowing).
-Selmer: Several friends have recommended the Selmer range of Clarinets, however, I am very unfamiliar with the different range of models available and their respective characteristics.Not sure if this is relevant, but I have been using a combination of Vandoren B45 mouthpiece and Rico Grand Concert Evolution (Size 3) reeds.
Would you recommend getting a second-hand instrument? I have found Buffet Clarinets (RC and RC Prestige) between 3 to 5 years old on sale, but I am wondering if this is advisable.

Thank you very much for your time and have a Merry Christmas!

Yours Sincerely,
fom Singapore

Dear Singapore:
Thank you for your recent letter concerned with purchasing a clarinet.

Since you have asked several questions, allow me to answer by asking you a question? If you have just entered university, what are you planning for a degree program? If it has anything to do with Music, I would suggest that you start with the Music Department. I am going to assume that you are planning on studying music. Without mentioning your career goal, you should determine if there is a teacher of clarinet in that department. That is the best place to begin your search for an instrument. If there is either a clarinetist on the faculty or there are any ensembles within the department, you will find the best person to ask will be the clarinet instructor, or the Band or Orchestra director. He or she will be best able to help you in your search for your first clarinet. the instructor should have the most knowledge about clarinets, and certainly will have an opinion. Here is my first bit of advice. Because clarinetists and/or ensemble directors are paid to teach and to give advice, they will most probably have an opinion, and that opinion is something they have spent many years of study and hard work to form. Carefully consider the advice given to you because it will center on a particular brand or model of the instrument. If you know anything about the horn they are suggesting and you can also afford the instrument, I recommend that you purchase that instrument. Trust me. That person will be your teacher of clarinet or your director or conductor. You are probably going to be there for at least three or four years. Ask them what they suggest. Ask them to select the instrument for you. Ask them to play the instrument that you select. And, if you’ve learned anything at all, buy that instrument,if you can. This will be your teacher, or your ensemble director. You are beginning to study in University. You need a new clarinet, your very first. The advice that you receive is quite important to you and will carry you through until you receive your degree. Since you do not stipulate anything about yourself except that “you have been a clarinetist for seven years”, one would need to know if you have either studied the clarinet for 7 years or if you studied prior to beginning university. I will assume that you have been studying for that long, which means that you are a clarinet student. This may be your very first private instructor. This will also be an important relationship for your time in university. Whatever level you are, tread lightly with your instructor and ask many questions, for you have a lot to learn.

Carefully consider any information you are given. Take their advice. It is one of the biggest reasons you have entered University. I would hope that you are in a fine university with a fine music program. I would not buy any instrument without the advice of your clarinet instructor. I would have to hear you play to determine where you are and then may make a suggestion. But, at this point I would be reluctant to give you any advice. That is why you are going to university.

Best of good luck with your studies .


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.

Full Boehm and Mazzeo Clarinets

March 29, 2012

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

The Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss

November 28, 2010

Last evening there was a wonderful concert available on Medici TV. It included The Four Last Songs of Strauss, the Second Act of Tristan and Isolde, both conducted by Claudio Abbado and with the soprano Renee Fleming. It is available at no charge after registering, which is a free service.
The sound and camera work are excellent and the only thing you need are a pair of reasonably good speakers to repeat this unique concert.

Renee Fleming is one of the great singers of her generation, and she is singing one of the signature woks of the 20th Century, by one of the more important composers of his time, Richard Strauss the most famous German opera and tone poem composer .

Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known particularly for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Thus Spake Zarathustra, An Alpine Symphony, and Metamorphosen.
Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the extraordinary late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style. Strauss was considered the greatest composer of the first half of the 20th century, and his music had a profound influence on the development of 20th-century music.
Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria, and internationally known as well.

But for a clarinetist (as are most of us), he is fascinating, for he wrote as much with a love and undersanding of the clarinet as he did for the French Horn, the instrument of his father, Franz Strauss.
As early as the tone Poem Til Eulenspiegel, he is well known for his extraordinary orchestration and his ability to set to music, every action of the underlying story.It was said that he could orchestrate even a glass of beer.

His most famous work for the clarinet is certinly Til Eulenspiegel, his first Tone Poem in which he jokes of the 12th century clownare set to a lovely musical setting, one of the first so-called Tone Poems.(The eb clarinet is the starof this work,playing the part of Til, and suffers the famous hanging) Strauss is also the composer of the Concerto for Clarinet and Bassoon and orchestra, and many works for wind ensemble, certainly one of the great compositional legacies of the 20th Century.

The two operas he wrote at the beginning of the 20th centur, Salome, and Elektra remain popular and are frequently staged.
It his last work, the so-alled Four Last Songs are in some ways his most well-known. Written in 1948 just prior to his death he was not able to hear the first performance which occured after he died, performed by Kirsten Flagstad, and the Pilharmonia Orchetra with Wiluelm Furchtwangler conducting.
The Four Last Songs (German: Vier letzte Lieder) for soprano and orchestra were the final completed works of Richard Strauss, composed in 1948 when the composer was 84. Strauss did not live to hear the premiere, given in London on 22 May 1950 by the soprano Kirsten Flagstad accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler.
The songs are “Frühling” (Spring), “September”, “Beim Schlafengehen” (Going to sleep) and “Im Abendrot” (At sunset).

While enjoying this performance by Renee Fleming and Claudio Abbado, I thought back to the last time I had played these pieces, which was on the occasion of the weekend of the Assasination o President John F Kennedy, president of the US.
It was with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, where I was the Principal Clarinet.The soloist was the famous and controversial Elizabeth Schwartzkoph in the saddened performance on Friday November 23 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. We knew that Schwartzkoph had joined the Nazi party while a student, and we also thought there had been rumors abot she and Herbert Von Karajan,  the late celebrated long time conducter of the Berlin Philharmonic.Toscanini refused to hire the soprano because of her affiliation with the Nazi party

Whatever had transpired, it was a strangely exciting concert, particularly poignant because of its importance and the totally still and silent audience. A day the world will remember.

Playing the clarinet during those years with all of the very moving experiences of the time all came back to me as I heard and saw Renee Fleming last night.

If there are those who are yet unfamiliar with these beautful Songs, wrtiten at the very end of Strauss career, one needs to know them. We are talking about one of the great composers of the 20th century and one of his most famous works.

keep practicing. You can spend years on the Strauss Orchestral Studies. Certainly,I did.

sherman friedland

Berlioz and the Clarinet

October 24, 2010

Clarinet in C by Bouchman, Annonay, France, ca. 1825. A lovely instrument in excellent condition by a little-known maker working in a small town near Lyon in the south of France, where instrument-making was actively pursued in the 19th century. Built of boxwood with ivory ferrules, it has seven keys. The round key flaps to which the pads are glued are curved to conform with the curvature of the body, a unique feature not normally seen that gives the instrument an unusually sleek appearance. A metal tuning slide on the inside of the bore, between the barrel and the top joint, became a feature that was widely used well into the 20th century, but often causes the barrel to crack, as the wood shrinks. Ex coll.: William J. Maynard, New York. Board of Trustees, 1996.

The above could have been the kind of instrument for which Berlioz composed.



“In an artist’s life one thunderclap sometimes follows swiftly on another … I had just had the successive revelations of Shakespeare and Weber. Now at another point on the horizon I saw the giant form of Beethoven rear up. The shock was almost as great as that of Shakespeare had been. Beethoven opened before me a new world of music, as Shakespeare had revealed a new universe of poetry.
Hector Berlioz
Berlioz (1803-69) said this of Beethoven, and was deeply impressed by the Music of Beethoven, especially in the Symphonie Fantastique, written in about 1830, which follows the example of the Symphony #6 of Beethoven, both, because there are five movements in each and each have a program, a story, if you will.
Beethovens program for the pastoral was of the impression of the countryside, shepherds, a storm and quiet after the storm.
Similarly, Berlioz writes of the countryside, but also of a love, the love of his life, whom he meets, his advances spurned , pursues and finally marries. This was Harriet(sometimes) Henrietta Smithson, the Irish actress, with whom Berlioz had an incredible marriage(finally), and then saw die, but stayed loyal to her passing for years afterward, tending to her grave. But, while this was transpiring, Berlioz kept quite busy, marrying twice again.

In last nights performance of the Symphonie Fantastique, by Berlioz, all was not perfect, at least not for the principal clarinet, specifically in the long clarinet solo in the slow movement, Scene aux Champs. I’m sure that all clarinetists know this long solo in the slow movement, both for its legato demands, its breathing, and the one salient  point, the throat Bb, played in the legato passage twice, the second time in an ppp mode.
What was very interesting for me as a clarinetist , was the playing of this part on an Oehler Clarinet, which is the system of clarinets used in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. They swear by these extremely well-made instruments, which are very costly, have a different fingering system, a different bore and require more air support
Very frequently, I am very pleased by the sound of these clarinets, their depth, and their heavier woody quality than the french boehm clarinet, which is used in most of the other European Orchestras.
But this performance last evening by the Berlin Orchestra was disappointing for me , especially in that particular solo. Each time it was played, the player used the easiest way of achieving that Bb, and both were unacceptable from the standpoint of sound. Why? Because he simply got over the two Bbs as easily as he could , detracting from the expressive possibilites and actually playing them faster than written. You may say, no big deal, but to any clarinetists aspiring to play this work in a fine orchestra, it is of great importance.
Now, as an aside, if I were playing this solo, on my Mazzeo full Boehm clarinet I would have played the Bb with the long Bb key, which works perfectly for two reasons: it simply fall directly under the fingers, and two, it is in context with the rest of the solo, and works expecially well, in the repeat of that measure in ppp. But , it must be remembered that this passage presents no problem with complete awareness of the demands.
I thought that this was a different player than usual, not the first Principal, but still, it was no excuse for the blip instead of the Bb.
Usually, when performing this work, all of the clarinets are used. The principal plays the C clarinet part on the Eb, instead of the second clarinet for whom it is written by Berlioz, but this time it was performed as written, by just two clarinets, the principal already mentioned, the second player playing the C part on the Eb. This is the most difficult to negotiate and the fellow who played the part was extraordinary, really great playing. If one has a chance to visit this performance in the archives, it is very well worth the visit, mostly because this is the way Berlioz conceived the parts.
Seeing and hearing this work has always been a party for me, more a theater piece than a symphony. There are so many unusual players,a couple of sets of tympani, four harps, for there are chromatics in the harp parts, specifically in La Bal, wherein the hero meets his beloved, his idee fixe at the Ball, and the ability of the harp to play chromatic notes was not yet invented. So,extra harps are there , tuned so that they could play the notes Berlioz wrote.
There are also the two great funeral bells which begin the last movement of the work, prior to the duet for two tubas of the Dies Irae, from the March for the dead. There are also for the first time, glissandi written for the flute and the oboe, usually left out, but played here in the Berlin performance.
Berlioz followed Beethovens plan of five movements, telling a story in the Pastoral, but Berlioz uses instead a program concerning a musician, totally infatuated by a lady, whose theme is repeated and is known as the Idee Fixe. This theme appears in all of the movements in different ways always symbolzing the beloved, as the hero sees her at Un Bal, kills her in March to the Scaffold(and is beheaded, a wonderful G major chord played in the full orchestra in applause of the beheading )and sees her again in the Dream of the Witches Sabbath, the final movement in which appears the Dies Irae frlm the Mass for the Dead, turning into a perfect fugue with different thematic entrances made in various instrumentlal guises. The idee fixe is another way of saying leit motiv. so frequently used by Wagner.
If there is anyone who does not know this work intimately, avail yourself of the opportunity.
Berlioz is not only extremely colorful as a personality , a critic of concerts , the writer of the best book on orchestration ever written, and Frances most famous composer of his time and possibly the entire history of music.

keep practicing, learn all the Berlioz solos.
stay well, sherman

Strident results in the upper register. What is a Big Full sound.?

September 2, 2010

Dear Mr Freidland:

I have read some of your comments posted on the Internet and can appreciate how valuable and interesting they are to your readers. I am an advanced, nonprofessional B flat clarinet player, having played off and on since 1948. I own a 7-ring Selmer clarinet S/N N7636 (obviously reconditioned), which indicates it was manufactured in 1951 in France, and it has a very full sound, apparently due in part to a comparatively large bore.

However, this horn produces fairly bright, if not strident, tones in the upper register above high C. I use the Vandoren B45 mouthpiece and was wondering if a change to another type of mouthpiece could improve the upper register tone quality. In addition, attempting to play a gliss, such as Artie Shaw’s at the end of his Begin the Beguine, is a risky endeavor.

I would greatly appreciate your comments on the foregoing.
Jim C.

Dear Jim C:
Thank you for your note about the N series Selmer and attendant possible mouthpiece problems, also glissandi.

I think that the VD B45 is a good ordinary mouthpiece. That it is just about the most popular mouthpiece in their mouthpiece stable is in my opinion, only happenstance.Of course mouthpiece considerations are always rather personal or personal to some degree as are mine. But, as I have tried and played in concert many many of the VD mouthpieces with various degrees of satisfaction, I feel somewhat convinced of my conclusions.
To continue, the B45 is only an average mouthpiece.It plays, but never ever gave me the kind of control that I have experienced on other VD mouthpieces, specifically the M13,my favorite of the Van Doren.It is I’m told, Van Dorens take on the Chedeville mouthiece of days gone by, and that mouthpiece was supposed to be extraordinary. But , I have never played on one, just copies of them,like theM13.Allof the M mouthpieces are quite a bit better that B models, especially with pitch. I found with my M13 more comfort in the altissima and better large intervalic movement, and let’s face it,I liked the sound.
But, if you will take that as a suggestion that you may wish to try another Van Doren, good.
But,there are others which play even better and are less,such as the Fobes Debut, much easier, much better for choosing reeds and excellent in the upper extremes without pinching in either embouchure or resultant sound.
Yes, I like the Richard Hawkins best, the R model, though I have and own the S model as well. He is the most sensitive of the mouthpiece makers and I believe him to be more precise and careful in his handmade mouthpieces.He uses the Zinner blank, highly touted these days, for a very nice quality.
So, there you have some suggestions and I start with saying yes, try a new and better mouthpiece, and there are those plentifully available. One thing to remember,each that you play will respond a bit differently, and that is a guaranty, similar, but different.
The only comment I would have is that a bigger bore clarinet does not necessarily result in a bigger or fuller  sound,which is all totally subjective.
And who,said that a bigger  or fuller sound is a better sound, and how do you define a big  and/or fullsound? One takes it for granted, as a “given”.A big sound is all in the ears of the beholder.

Good luck and just practice.
Artie Shaw didn’t copy anybody.
best regards,

Idiosyncratic crystal mouthpieces?

August 25, 2010
Dear Mr. Friedland,

Question #1:

After spending almost two years now being unable, virtually, to find a reed that really responds well on my mouthpiece, it occurs to me that perhaps my mouthpiece is worn out, or misshapen, or warped or some combination of all of these.

I’ve been playing professionally (jazz) for about thirty years, practically full-time.  Until three or four years ago I always used crystals.  I broke the one I liked, and haven’t found one that even comes close to being what I want (especially any new crystal mouthpieces).

The best luck I’ve had has been with a Vandoren 5JB (profile 88).  Not only have I used it the past couple of years with fairly good results, but I experimented with it now and then for ten or fifteen years before that (the very same mouthpiece).  So, I’ve had this mouthpiece about fifteen to seventeen years.  I always use a swab (silk), and sometimes I’ll rinse it out with warm water.

Is it common that hard rubber mouthpieces will change dramatically over time, to the extent that it’s nearly impossible to find a reed that will work well on it?  Is a new mouthpiece (same kind) often the answer?

Question #2:

After having purchased most clarinet accessories via the mail from big discount companies for many years, I wonder if there is a difference in quality depending on the source from whom one purchases a mouthpiece.  I don’t mind paying more, if that results in better quality. In other words, might there be companies that sell “seconds”?  How would someone know?

I would value and appreciate any thoughts you may offer concerning these two questions.


Dear Lynn:

thank you for your question concerning mouthpieces and variances. First and foremost, be advised that each and every mouthpiece that you try is different, sometimes only a bit, and sometimes widely in variance with the first one you tried. These mouthpiece are mass produced and so they cannot be exact duplicates of one another, and are not. Consider each as fingerprints, for each is different. I happen to be playing on a Richard Hawkins mouthpiece at present and find it very suitable for my needs. Now,Professor Hawkins of Oberlin uses mostly the Zinner blank which is made in German and is currently very popular with many clarinetists,  Hawkins puts on his own facing, and while I find him the most sensitive of all the mouthpiece craftsman, each mouthpiece of the same facing he makes is slightly different.
I have to insert a personal story concerned with crystal mouthpieces, from which I have drawn a rule: If you have a great one and you drop it, it is going to be very difficult to find another with the same characteristics. This happened to me, and I was never ever able to duplicate the response, tuning and general sound of that crystal.Never. Hawkins comes the closest for an ideal to me, but it’s only close, hence my rule, or admonition, if you will.I will never forget that crystal, which was a Pomarico, made in Argentina, and called a Guigui, after the Argentnian clarinetist who imported them. It was an -1.Guigui and I knew each other and played together in the Boston University Symphony Orchestra. There was or is another Pomarico brother who lives and works on mouthpieces  in Italy. So, that is parhaps a reason why other mouthpiece have not been satisfying.The greater the pleasure of the crystal, the more you suffer trying to replace. And yes, it can last for years.For me, it has been irreplaceable.(perhaps unspellable)
The Van Doren 5JB mouthpiece is known as being a Jazz mouthpiece as it is very open, but I have known classical players who also prefer this mouthpiece for classical playing, the late Jack Brymer being one of note.
Yes, mouthpieces can become warped or damaged or out of tune or not in tune to begin with, and yes, thay can change over time, but it is not their inclination. Big box companies tend to have more stringent rules for selling mouthpieces and will frequently sell what they call ‘blemished”
for less money, these usually having a scratch or something similar on the mouthpiece usually caused by sometone trying same and sending it back. They are however, always marked as such.
I recently bought a Fobes San Fransico mouthpiece, labeled blemished, which only had a scratch on the table and plays rather well, on a Zinner blank, but not as good as my Hawkins. They are always discounted and marked so, if they are blemished. These larger companies tend to be more stringent in their care of equipment and charge less because they are able to buy in large volume. I have no fear of them or of their equipment. A 45 days trial period is nothing to fear. Their merchandise is always reliable has been my finding.
I hope I have been helpful.
Good luck.

That Clarinet Mystique is a mistake.

August 20, 2010

Dear Mr Friedland,

First I would like to congratulate you for sharing your knowledge with the whole world.I think that people like you, with your credibility and exemption, and  William Ridenour, with his technical ability and entrepreneurship, are revolutionizing the clarinet market – hard rubber seems to be the way to go.I have one question for you.Some time ago, the quality of the clarinets made in china was a joke, and now they have improved a lot, specially the hard rubber (ebonite) clarinets.We know too that any one can order one hundred or less clarinets from a Chinese maker and print a logo on it and create her/his own brand. This scenario makes things harder.Recently you post a good review about the Orpheo 450 Pro clarinet, a good instrument for its price. But how much can we trust a clarinet from an unknowing Chinese brand?Like this “JinYin” ebonite Eb clarinet for $ 179,00 “Lazarro” ebonite Bd clarinet from ebay for less then $100,00

I know that you can say specifically nothing about those instruments. But about the overall picture, do you have something to say?
Thank you.

Best regards,
RFS Ps.: Excuse me for my poor writing. English is not my first language.

Dear RFS:

Thank you for your note with its questions about ebonite clarinets from the Orient.
I have played many more than several as I bought and tried and returned perhaps 10 or 11 so-called Allora ebonite Bbs from 23 Music. These were actually Ridenour Arioso clarinets with a different name. They were advertised as such however with the name Allora, and they played just beautifully , by and large. The deviations between each clarinet were very small indeed.I think I probably returned the best one I had, a testament to the ability to machine hard rubber more easily than grenadilla wood.At the time the instruments from the Orient were called CSI, ir Clarinet Shaped Instruments, an obviously derisive term. These instruments shocked me with their really excellent tuning and basic response, and finally when I got the chance to try an Allora A clarinet, I bought it and still it is mine today.Ridenour has said on several occasions that he is not sure which one of his designs is the best, but feels it either his C or his A clarinet.
Then I tried another Bb Ebonite clarinet imported by some music store on the West Coast.  I sent it on to Tom.He wrote back saying it was like a big “Buffet clarinet”, which was taken as a compliment.I still have that one, though it is not being played at present.
Then, for a pittance, I bought yet another, the 450 Orpheo, same strong case, two barrels and a mouthpiece, ordinary register key.  Excellent. Curiously enough, I was able to switch register keys with the ergonomic register key on my Lyrique, and the scews and keys matched perfectly. This is a fine free blowing instrument, though I felt the second register started to be slightly sharp as it went up, but a horn with a nice feel, a good thumb rest and a good response. Cost 133.00, shipping included. I recommend it without reservation.

You see, there is a mystique associated with the French Grenadilla clarinet, and it actually refines into something like “each clarinet is carefully tested and tuned”. I say that statement or inference, is total hyperbole, overspeak or plain BS. I spent some time at the Selmer factory in Paris and visited the Buffet place as well, and to me it looked like an assembly line. I wondered if some of those workmen could even hear. The Selmers were the most consistent and dependable. The Buffets were the least. The years past have proven that to me over and over again.

I think finally, that the clarinets from the Orient made of ebonite are to be taken quite seriously. The Lyrique is clearly best because the designer actually works on each and offers an actual guarantee. The others need to be tried. In the final analyses, one doesn’t mind when the price for the whole deal is about $150. and sometimes that price includes shipping.

All of the advertising you see for all of the many clarinets being offered for sale costs money, big money. Guess who pays it? You, for it is in the price of the horn.

A final Caveat:yes, you can purchase a Buffet Clarinet, and it mahy be a good one, but it is useful to paraphrase Anthony Gigliottis statement” Every year I would try 55 Buffet Clarinets and I would select two and then bring them to Hans Moenig to arrange them sothat I could play them in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gigliotti was principalin that orchestra for many yhears and Hans Moenig was the techician who was responsiblefor tuning and arranging many top players clarinets.He also developed the “Moenig”reverse curve”barrel, emulated by many makers and played by many. When a director directs a first-year student to buy a Buffet to play in band, one should really think many times and perhaps reread the above. Of course the choice is yours, or your sponsors and/or parents.

Keep practicing.


Three questions of basic clarinet technic

August 1, 2010

Dear Mr. Friedland:

JW wrote:

I have three questions:

One is, with all the problems with the thumb-/register-key B flat, why the default fingering is not what I call the “side B flat,” using the A key and, I think it is the 2nd from the top right hand trill key? On my both my Selmer Centered Tone and Ridenour Lyrique C, it is clear and well in tune. We hear all the explanations about why the thumb B flat is bad, register hole is not a tone hole, etc., etc., but, “Why bother?” is my stance.JW
Answer to one
“Why bother” is incorrect because it presupposes that the Bb using the A and the third trill key can be used for all Bbs.It cannot, regardless of how many times you practice this fingering , it cannot be done with any rapidity on an ordinary clarinet. It must be played in any rapid context with the thumb and the A key. The only way to play it with the fingering which is always correct is with a clarinet such as the Mazzeo Clarinet,wherein any combination of fingers and the A key produces the throat Bb. I played Mazzeo clarinets for many years and it was always possible to play the throat Bb with no trouble. Unfortunately, after Mazzeo passed away and the patents ran out, there was no company who wished to make this clarinet. No ordinary Bb clarinet can make a Bb that is totally clear and capable of rapid execution except for the Mazzeo clarinet. One has to deal with a fuzzy and slightly sharp Bb unless the passage is slow enough to play it with the third side key.

Second, the endless question  of tonguing. When I listen to recordings of top players, e.g., Martin Frost, especially during rapid passages, it does not even really sound like “tonguing,” in the sense that there is no “ta” or “da” character to the sound. In fact it seems more like a huffing or “uh” sound. When I am playing, my notes sound like “ta” or “da” and I’d rather have the “huh”. How does one get that? (Maybe mine would sound that way if recorded rather than listened to “from the inside,” while playing, but I haven’t checked.) How are they doing this?  JW
Staccato is probably the very last skill to be achieved by the clarinetist. Most clarinetists can use either double or triple tonguing for rapid passages and using either pattern makes the attack less discernible. A short pop of a staccato is seldom used on the clarinet and rapid staccato involves air more than the tongue,the tongue hardly stopping the reed, and the staccatp sound indiscernible. A slow and short staccato is something more to the discretion of the conductor or the leader or the clarinetist of the group based upon knowledge and experience with the repertoire at hand.

Third I have figured out why I am getting so much “squeaking.” It happens when I create small leaks by not completely closing tone holes, often very subtly repositioning my finger when reaching for the C# (middle of staff) or other key, or barely nudging one of the adjacent levers, e.g., the G# (below middle C) lever or the E flat (first line at bottom of staff) lever. It is a problem of stiff old fingers. Any suggestions? I’ve tried keeping elbows out, which does help.JW

This has to do with the acquisition of a true control over the keys of the clarinet. Much more practice of scales, chromatic scale and exercises in order to become totally regular in finger placement regardless of the passage. All passages must be absolutely thoughtless for the fingers so as to eliminate all such mistakes of hitting extra keys. I do not think it problem of age, but more of not enough foundation studies.And more as you age.

The problems of age are age.


I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,