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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000641.txt from 1997/09

Subj: Re: Brahms, etc.
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 1997 17:11:50 -0400

Fred Jacobowitz said, in response to a note by Roger Shilcock, in reference
to a broadcast by Antony Pay of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet from Albert Hall:

anything with the sound >nowadays. With all due respect to Mr. Pay, who I
greatly admire, if he could always be heard, even in the >chalumeau, and "was
never smothered by the'cello" (I fing it difficult to believe that ANYONE
could ever be >smothered by a cello) then he was playing just too loud.
Either that or the mike placement was unfortunate. (Cut)

Roger Shilcock had written:

> A couple of evenings ago, the BBC Promenade concert included a performance
> of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet by Hausmusik with Anthony Pay playing an
> alleged replica of Muhlfeld's clarinet. I heard the broadcast, which
> obviously made some difference, but what struck me was that Anthony Pay
> sounded more or less as he generally does, with perhaps a bit of
> unevenness
> of tone - Pay on an instrument borrowed in a hurry, maybe. There wasn't
> much sign of Muhlfeld's reported vibrato. However, what *was* unusual
> (compared with most recordings I've heard, at least) was that the
> chalumeau notes were always audible and practically never smothered by the
> cello, and the attack he obtained was extremely emphatic, making the
> phrasing especially clear. Is this last characteristic a common property
> of late nineteenth-century non-Boehm clarinets?
> Incidentally, the strings *did* use vibrato, though not a lot.
> The Albert Hall acoustics would have affected the sound of course - they
> can be modified these days, I believe, but it's still a bit of a cavern
> to play chamber music in.

I spent two years in London (granted - almost 20 years ago) and spent a good
deal of time listening to Antony Pay play chamber music with the Nash
Ensemble. I can't imagine him playing in such an unbalanced manner as was
apparently head in the broadcast. I felt he was clearly among the finest
musicians I heard in London. His commercial recordings, on both modern and
period instruments don't seem to show failings of this type.

I would modify Fred's statement to read, "What you hear in recording MAY not
represent what you would hear at a live concert". My experience indicates
that many recordings ARE realistic. I refer here to recordings which made me
dislike certain clarinetists - when I heard them live they sounded just the

I also listened to many concerts in Albert Hall and, while none of these were
of chamber music, I agree with Roger that the acoustics are strange. I
recall one concert where a horn concerto was played and I had great
difficulty hearing anything of what the soloist was playing, while the
orchestral clarinet parts were audible and cutting through in tutti passages.
This was a competent professional group and I assume that the sound was
properly balanced to the conductor's ears.

I would assume that the problem was some combination of mike placement, hall
acoustics and/or naive technicians.

Don Yungkurth (

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