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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000047.txt from 1993/12

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: B-flat or A? Which do you prefer?
Date: Sat, 4 Dec 1993 11:16:35 -0500

Cary in Sweden asks about preferences for B-flat over A clarinet. And
that leads to some interesting practical questions. Let me begin with
two great stories.

Herb Blayman (retired 1st at the Metropolitan Opera) told me that early in
his career he played with the Salt Lake Orchestra under Abravenal (who just
died, by the way). The were doing the Schubert C major symphony that has
movement 2 for A clarinet but Herb was playing it on B-flat because he was
not comfortable with the intonation of his A. Abravanel stoped the
rehearsal and asked Blayman on which clarinet he was executing the part.
Blayman told him and Abravanel asked him to please use the clarinet that
was requested by the composer. Blayman was impressed with Abravanel's ear.
So was I. End of story one.

Store two: same piece, same beginning, different clarinet player. This was
Hans Rudolph Stalder of Switzerland and the Zurich Orchestra. Conductor
was Hans Rosbaud who asked Stalder which clarinet he was using, etc., etc.
But here there is a big difference. Stalder did not have his A with him
that day, so he put down the B-flat clarinet, made some body motions to
simulate a change of instrument, picked up the B-flat again and continued
playing, at which point, Rosbaud said "See how much better it sounds when
played on an A clarinet??".

A third story on the same subject: Rufus Arie was rehearsing the Stravinsky
unaccompanied pieces in the hall where he intended to play them that
evening. Stravinsky was there. He had sneaked in the back and was
listening as Arie toodled. Suddenly Stravinsky interrupted and said,
"Whyare you playing that movement on a B-flat clarinet. I requested an
A (I think it is the middle of the three) and that is the instrument
that I want used."

You can read almost any conclusion you want from these stories. That
conductors can (or cannot) hear the difference between the instruments.
That players make substitutions of one clarinet for another with little
thought about the impact of this decision on the character of the music.

And from this, one can immediately leap to the same questions as it
applies to C clarinet.

What duty does an instrumentalist have to the composer's explicit
request for a specificly pitched instrument?

(By the way, I much prefer my A instruments over my B-flat instruments.)

Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California

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