Klarinet Archive - Posting 000103.txt from 1993/12
From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: Re Schubert, Strauss and the clarinet color
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 1993 19:40:20 -0500
From your comments, I don't think I made myself as clear as I
should have. I am more in agreement with you than you think.
When Strauss selected a clarinet pitch, he did so for color. He
had a certain palette in mind and he selected his instruments based
on that palette. And it goes far beyond the clarinet. His use of
the Heckelphone in Salome shows his careful attention to details of
instrumental color. So when Strauss says "Clarinet in C" (as he
does in, for example, the Alpine Symphony or the finale of the opera
"Frau Ohen Schatten," one is really obliged to play it on C clarinet
or run the risk of obtaining a color different from that implicitly
requested by Strauss.
On the other hand, and in Schubert's case, I think it was exactly
the reverse. He selected his keys based on what he wanted to say
musically. Having done that, his use of clarinet pitch was almost
pre-ordained. However (and this is a big "however") having his
clarint pitch pre-ordained, he then wrote a part for that clarinet
making the best possible use of its peculiar timbre. So successful
was he in doing so, that playing it on another clarinet will not
achieve what it was that was in Schubert's ear when he created
And I should mention that, in the case of Mozart at least, this is
not speculation about what I think. I can put forward hard evidence
that, when Mozart wanted to use clarinets, he selected his keys
that permitted him the use of a specific clarinet. After all, he
could have written the concerto in B-flat concert!
Schubert's use of the clarinet is far more extensive than you give
him credit for. Besides using the instrument in many symphonies and
a number of masses, he used it in his operas (and gave the players
some glorious parts) and, of course, the Shepherd on the Rock. His
orchestrations were very professional.
He was a wierdo (there are some new theories about his sex life
that burn up the pages) but when it came to sounds, he knew exactly
what he wanted.
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California