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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000550.txt from 1996/01

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: Is that it? Is it all over?
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 1996 11:36:36 -0500

Is that it? Are we done discussing the Sinfonie Concertante? Think
about it, friends. When we spoke together and shared our views on
the subjects of vibrato, dark/light sounds, use of the C clarinet in
performance, reeds, mouthpieces, that is, all things associated with the
mechanics of clarinet playing, we spent months exhausting the topics.
Some of these topics have not yet been exhausted and will perpetually
appear on this list. Reeds, cork grease, mouthpieces, are constantly
appearing as topics on this board (as they should). New things
happen and we are the beneficiaries of this kind of information.

But whenever an in-depth discussion of repertoire (the very heart of
our business) is begun, it generally poops out in a matter of days.
There are few exceptions. And that puzzles me. It would seem that
the interest of a clarinet player's list such as this would be somewhat
equally divided between some very detailed discussions of major (and
minor) works in the repertoire on one hand, and the mechanical
aspects of clarinet playing on the other.

As an example, for more than 3 years I have tried unsuccessfully to
discuss in detail the subject of spontaneous improvisation in Mozart.
I think it to be a terrific discussion topic to say nothing of the fact
that it is important for people in this business to know about the
current state of thinking of these things. And it is we who should be
at the center of that thinking, generating the knowledge, not recipients
of the largesse of some scholarly Austrian pianist. But this topic, like
all having to do with in-depth discussions of repertoire and how to
play it, just doesn't get anywhere on this board. It is almost as if each
of us has a vision about how that particular piece should or should
not be played, and we are unwilling to become enculturated with any
other perspective, particularly if it differs radically from ours. And
even more so when the differences in our thinking become more
polarized towards opposite ends of the interpretive spectrum.

It is we who should be poking at conductors to suggest "Are you sure
you want to do the clarinet version of the Concertante in light of new
research on the subject?", as painful as that is. It is we who should
be saying to conductors "Would you object if I improvised during the
performance of the Mozart concerto?" It is we who should be pushing
the envelope about all aspects of how to play our repertoire, and on
what instrument, and with what performance practices.

But if this list is doing much in that arena, I don't think I have seen
much of it. Tell someone that his or her mouthpiece selection is a
piece of junk and you have a flame on your hands. Tell someone that
the reeds they love are nothing but dog turd, and death threats fly
over cyberspace. But suggest that the way we all (me too, folks, I'm
not immune) have played composition X for clarinet is all screwed up,
and, after a few "Up yours, Irving!" we go back to discussing those
elements that center on the mechanics of the instrument.

Are we just another generation of players who are manipulated by the
thinking process of others or are we a generation of innovative players
who create movement on our own? Are we leaders in the musical
world, or are we a bunch of followers? Does the clarinet playing world
tolerate aberrant views? Is that what hurt Kell? Is that why so many
players don't like Stolzman? Is that why Neidich is in trouble?
Because so many of us are sheep instead of wolves?????

>From my perspective, whenever a 10 year old kid comes on this board
and says "I can't get a good sound on high G" we do a service to him
and the music world by the time and effort we spend to get that kid
on track. Equally important is it for us to speak of the significant
issues of the repertoire on which so many of us make a living. And I
mean in depth, not some superficial restatement of what is our
unchanging view or what our teachers told us; i.e., don't tell me the
facts, my mind is made up.

Nowhere was that more clearly seen than in a comment made with
respect to an element of the very brief discussion on the Sinfonie
concertante. The matter had to do with architecture and I put
forward what I thought were cogent, reasoned, rational arguments to
defend the thesis that Mozart could not have done a certain thing. In
effect I tried to be absolutely objective, divorced from the "It sounds
good to me so it must be right" philosophy so often espoused by so
many musicians. The response was iron hard in its position: the
status quo is correct and the things suggested are probably not the
case because Mozart could very well have decided to abandon all form,
all practice, all structure, and all reason in order to obtain the
architectural abortion that we call the Sinfonie Concertante (in its
current form); i.e., don't tell me the facts, my mind is made up.

Every one of us has a story to tell about how this or that older clarinet
player - generally a well-respected but advanced-in-age, retired
orchestral player or teacher - made some statement about how to play
this or that solo. And we smile in our beard, barely hiding our
contempt for such old-fashioned ideas because we recognize that the
world knows a lot more than it did when this old fart was in his prime.

Well that is the way we are all behaving. Me too; i.e., as if there are
no more worlds to conquer. Insofar as repertoire is concerned, we
know it all. And don't try to change it. We know how these pieces go.
We've played them a million times.

Sound familiar?

No flames please. I like you all (except for one guy in NJ whose wife
has a terrific recipe for peanut butter cookies that he will not share
with me, and he can go to hell).
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California

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