Klarinet Archive - Posting 000370.txt from 1997/09
From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: RE: Well, here we go again
Date: Mon, 8 Sep 1997 14:00:28 -0400
> From: MX%"klarinet@-----.24
> Subj: Well, here we go again
> O.K., O.K., I'm persuaded! A part for "Clarinet in C" should really be
> played on a C Clarinet! Don't hit me!
> But here is my real-world dilemma: in something under 3 weeks I will
> play a concert in which one piece (an overture by the other
> Mendelssohn--Fanny) calls for Clarinet in C and (you guessed it) I do
> not own a C Clarinet. I thought I was doing my best by writing out a
> careful transposition (to avoid stupid panic-induced errors during the
> performance) and playing it on my B flat instrument. But now I live in
> dread that Dan Leeson, the avenging angel of the clarinet version of the
> ACLU, will suddenly appear at the concert, pull me out of the wind
> section midway through the overture, slam me up against the wall, and
> bellow "Schmuck! Do you know what the hell it is you are doing?"
> I thought it was incumbent upon me to spend all of my available time
> between now and the concert working out some tricky finger moves in the
> Ginastera "Estancia" so that they would flow cleanly the night of the
> concert, but now I see that my time would be better spent looking for
> two C Clarinets that I could beg, borrow, or steal for the concert to
> maintain the integrity of the orchestral palette of sound (two because I
> don't want to see the other clarinettist slammed into a wall either, and
> I expect our sounds will blend better if we are both playing C
> Clarinets). I appeal to the list--Help!
The issue has never been what you must do to the exclusion of all
other options. If you have no C clarinet, if you cannot get a
C clarinet, if you are completely unable to select any alternative
approach, then the part still must be played. I have never said
anything to the contrary.
What I HAVE been trying to do is focus attention on the now
apparently-agreed-to-assumption that suggests that it does not
matter which clarinet you play on. That kind of thinking is
the beginning of a slippery slope. The moment you accept it
the first time, then it becomes easier and easier to accept it
permanently until finally, you get into the mental state of
one of America's finest clarinet players (who will remain nameless)
who was of the opinion, that one should NEVER play on a C clarinet
and any performer who did (when the part called for it) should be
fired. That's a true story.
I was once hired to play the Beethoven Missa Solemnis and, knowing
the work, I showed up with three clarinets. The conductor, a woman
who lived in Bernardsville, NJ and who had hired an orchestra with
which she intended to rehearse, saw me with three instruments while
the first clarinet player had two. So she took me aside (apparently
not to embarass me) and asked why I had three instruments. I was
very proud of what I was doing and told her so. She interpreted
my remarks as implying that I did not know how to transposed and
presumed that I was simply ignorant of the obligatory requirement
that a C clarinet part was always transposed (in her mind).
The next day, she called up this really magnificent clarinet
player, told him the story, and he said, in effect, that if I
could not transpose, I should be fired and that no one plays
on a C clarinet any more.
Now I tell you this not to garnish sympathy, but to point out
that this is exactly where such a dialogue as this is headed.
Eventually, most players wind up with that view; i.e., since
no one plays a C clarinet, no one is obliged to play a C
clarinet, and therefore, a C clarinet serves no purpose.
When I got into this discussion about 3 or 4 days ago, that is
fairly much where it was. And I stayed out of it for about
a week hoping that it would not go in that direction. But
despite my wish to stay out of the matter, it was headed
straight for the conclusion of "who cares?". Look at what
was being said: conductors don't know so why should we care?
That was mentioned by several people. Another one is: no one
uses those things any longer.
And that is the slippery slope on which this conversation
was resting, and sliding.
I am not suggesting anything impractical. If you can't get
a C (or an A or a D or whatever), then you are going to have
to live with it. But don't for one moment think that this
is something that a clarinet player does not have to think
I don't mind it too much when one says, "I can't get one." I
mind it very much when one suggests that "it doesn't matter."
And as for your personal efforts, when was the last time you
went to a pawn shop to look for a C clarinet. When was the
last time you looked in the "for sale" section of a news paper
to see if one was available for sale. I looked in the SF
Chronicle last night and saw two available for sale, one of
them for $25. So stop acting like you were trying to buy
a size 19 bustle frame. C clarinets are all over the place
(though good ones are still hard to find).
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California
Rosanne Leeson, Los Altos, California