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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000106.txt from 1994/01

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: At the request of Mark Gallagher
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 1994 15:54:25 -0500

I also agree with Mark that performance is a more interesting subject
than pedagogy and, at his explicit invitation (though not issued to
me), I am reposting something that I put up a couple of months ago
that went unresponded to. I kept a copy of my notes.


I assert that today's clarinetists execute Mozart's music in a fashion
that measureably diverges, in identifiable ways, from the manner in
which these works would have been performed during the era of their

Mostly, what we commit are errors of omission; that is, we are not doing
things that both Mozart and his contemporaries would have expected us to
do. However, there are also a few errors of commission, too; that is,
the doing of things that both Mozart and his contemporaries would have
found foreign to the then professional performing milieu.

The result of this misunderstanding is the underachievement of the
full potential of this fragile music.

Let me add that there is nothing special about the clarinet with
respect to this subject. These assertions are applicable to
other instruments, too. But (a) I don't play those other
instruments, and (b) one war at a time, please.

To give the point some perspective, let me add that we do a lot of
things right when playing this music. Notwithstanding this, there
are important performing issues that need to be - but are not getting -
addressed by today's generation of clarinetists.

The net result of all this is that, during almost any contemporary
performance of Mozart's K. 622, one could unplug one clarinetist,
plug in another, and hardly notice the difference, so static,
uniform, and unchanging is our approach to this music.

That most professional (and many amateur) performances of the
Mozart concerto are beautifully executed, show clarinetistry at
the highest possible level of technical excellence, and are crafted
with love and respect for the work is clear and unequivocal. But
that most of these performances are entered into with only modest
knowledge of the special things that an 18th century clarinet
play was expected to do is equally clear and unequivocal.

The concerto, K. 622, as well as almost every Mozart work in which
the clarinet has a prominent solo line, has become frozen as a
result of our respect for the glories of this music. There has
developed a single way to play it, a way characterized almost
solely by beauty of execution, this to the exclusion of all other
things that go into a performance.

This entire repertoire of music, from ca. 1780 up to and including
early Beethoven and even some Schubert, needs to be completely restudied
in light of a contemporary understanding of performance practice

BOTTOM LINE: insofar as playing music of the classic period that uses
a prominent solo clarinet, we have lost our way and have only a modest
understanding of how this music needs to be played.

Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California

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