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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000320.txt from 1997/09

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: Re: A student's multiple questions
Date: Sun, 7 Sep 1997 19:05:48 -0400

> From: MX%"klarinet@-----.65
> Subj: Re: A student's multiple questions

> On Sun, 7 Sep 1997 wrote:
> > On Mon, 1 Sep 1997, Mike Nichols gave a well-thought-out response to the
> > questions about auditioning on A clarinet parts. One statement, however,
> > was:
> >
> > >It is unreasonable to expect a high school student (or any >amateur
> > clarinetist, for that matter) to own an A clarinet, >and it is equally
> > unreasonable to expect him to be able to
> > >transpose music in his head, since most professional >players do not do
> > this.
> >
> > As an amateur who plays in three orchestras, any of which may put A, Bb and C
> > clarinets parts in front of me, I question this view. If I want to play in
> > these groups (and I *really* want to), it is my problem to produce sounds
> > acceptable to the conductor. I have yet to hear complaints about transposed
> > C parts and I seriously doubt whether they would care (or would know) if I
> > played A parts on Bb.
> >
> O.K. This is really getting confusing. Maybe I should clarify my
> position, because people on both sides of this issue claim they disagree
> with me. My view is shaped by the following principles:
> 1.) In a professional setting, the players can be expected to have the
> resources and responsibility to satisfy the composer's intent when
> playing a piece. When this means playing the part on an A clarinet or a
> C clarinet, this is what they can be expected to do.
> 2.) When the composer's intent becomes impossible to satisfy because of
> the physical difficulty involved in changing instruments, then it is
> reasonable to assume that the professional clarinetist will transpose.
Of, perhaps, 10,000 switches in the repertoire, there are maybe
10 that are difficult to execute. So do not exaggerate the problem
by given the impression that it is an everyday event. It is very
rare to find what you imply is relatively common. Can you name
10 works where this phenomenon occurs?

> 3.) A youth orchestra, by definition, is not held to the same standards
> as a professional symphony orchestra, both in terms of equipment and
> skill.
> 4.) Most youth orchestra players will not pursue professional musical
> careers.
> 5.) A young player who cannot afford to own more than one instrument will
> 9 times out of 10 own a Bb clarinet. A player who can afford an A
> clarinet should probably buy one if he intends to continue playing in an
> orchestral setting in the future, but no player should be denied an
> opportunity to play because he cannot afford extra instruments.
> 6.) Transposing in one's head is not a skill generally taught to young
> clarinettists. (Maybe it should be)
> 7.) The time it takes for a youth orchestra to work up a technically
> challenging (and hence, difficult to mentally transpose) piece is usually
> (but not always--I will admit) sufficient time to allow someone to
> transpose his part on paper.
> 8.) It should be assumed that C clarinet parts in a youth orchestra will
> be transposed. C clarinet parts are not frequent enough in the
> literature to warrant requiring an young amateur player to buy a C
> clarinet--the player will not get enough use out of the instrument to
> make it worth the expense.

Not so! Youth orchestras play a lot of Beethoven, Schubert,
Mozart, and Mendelssohn where there are lots and lots and lots of
C clarinet parts. This argument is patently contradictable at
its inception.

> 9.) Usually the conductor won't be able to tell whether you used an A, a
> C, or a Bb. The audience will never know.
The motivating factor behind what a player should be doing is
his own artistic conscience. It does not matter what the
conductor knows (which is generally nothing) or that the audience
may not know. You will know.

> 10.) Often, it doesn't really matter which instrument you use, because the
> composer's choice of instrument was based more on ease of playing in a
> particular key or for historical instrument availability than on sound.
> There are, of course, exceptions to this, especially in 20th century
> music, which is why professionals should own an A clarinet. My point is,
> though, that you are not always doing a terrible disservice to the
> composer by playing on a different-keyed instrument. Very often, it is
> merely through courtesy to the clarinettist that the composer picks a
> particular key of instrument.

What is the source of this statement? How do you know what the
composer's motivation was in the selection of a particularly pitched
instrument? Can you give evidence in support of this very
speculative hypothesis?

What you have here is little less than making up data to justify
a course of action.

> 11.) Most importantly, Mom and Dad (who are paying for all this) will
> still think you were wonderful, regardless of what kind of clarinet you
> used. :)

Well, I'll buy that.

> Mike Nichols
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California
Rosanne Leeson, Los Altos, California

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