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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000494.txt from 1997/09

Subj: Leeson and the Proper Clarinet (was Well, here we go again)
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 1997 02:32:50 -0400

Dan Leeson has responded at length to one of my notes, on one of his favorite
subjects, the use of the clarinet asked for by the composer. He begins by
quoting me and then proceeds into his lecture. I will not clutter Klarinet
with his entire note - those of you who read Dan's notes will remember it and
his views.

I should point out first of all that I agree with Dan's views on this
subject. Of course you should play what the composer requested. I should
also state that I enjoy Dan's elegant rhetoric as much as he enjoys writing
it. However, in this case he has quoted me only partially, in a way that
misses the context of my comments, in order to unleash his lecture.

Dan's quote of me follows:

>Don Yungkurth has said, "...if you want to play in an orchestra,
>you had better own an A and be able to transpose C parts. I think
>that discussions in the past on Klarinet would tend to support
>the view that professionals transpose as necessary, C parts on
>Bb as well as A on Bb and Bb on A now and then."

Even out of context, I think that my view represents real life for most
orchestral clarinetists, amateur and professional. Clearly, I can't back
this up with statistics, but Dan's idealistic approach, carried to the
extremes he suggests, is not followed by many - indeed, this is what
apparently upsets him. We will see that Dan, himself, doesn't even follow
his idealistic view of never transposing or playing on the "wrong" clarinet.

Dan suggests:

>Don infers that the practice of clarinet substitution (C on >B-flat, A on
B-flat, B-flat on A, etc.) has no negative >consequences.

Dan has found this inference where none was suggested. I was simply
responding to Mike Nichols, who said:

>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

My response to this, the beginning of which Dan apparently ignored, began:

>As an amateur who plays in three orchestras, any of which may put A, Bb and
>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.

Clearly, I was suggesting that the need for A clarinets and transposition in
amateur situations was reasonable, at least for those of us who want to be in
an orchestra. I also pointed out that professionals *do* transpose (whether
or not Dan approves).

Dan also said:

>But has anyone noticed what a thoughtful orchestral clarinet
>section plays when the music says, "Clarinet in C"? Like
the Chicago Symphony, for example?

I think it is safe to say that any of us playing at that level would not
object to being asked to use the "correct" clarinet. Chicago, I recall, has
actually used Oehler system instruments for authenticity for some literature.
How about it Dan, did you use Oehler, or better yet, the five or six keyed
clarinet when playing late 18th century works?

I seemed to recall Dan confessing to using the "wrong" bass clarinet in one
of his notes and checked the archives rather than trust my memory. This is
what I found that Dan said on May 12, 1994:

>>>>Date: Thu, 12 May 1994 08:51:19 -0700
From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subject: A and B-flat bass clarinets - continued

(Cut) I have been transposing bass parts for
years and, though I don't enjoy it, I do it with sufficient facility that
did not require me to get an A bass.

(Cut) I hardly
ever play on A clarinet when the B-flat is requested and vice-versa.

Now, in the case of Mahler 4, I did make one exception. At the very end
of the work there is a solo for a bass in B-flat in, I think, 6 sharps.
It is a very brief solo. I played it on A because the instrument spoke
better in that particular range.

I also make an exception for Grofe's Grand Canyon suite where the terrible
solo in B major that has the bc fall down a flight of stairs with a tray
of dishes, is easily accomplished on an A bass in C major. But, except
for those two exceptions.... (Cut)<<<<

Have the chickens come home to roost?

Don Yungkurth (

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