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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000547.txt from 1999/04

From: arehow <>
Subj: [kl] Re: Bells up in Mahler
Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 14:26:03 -0400

Dan Leeson, I must admit that I have not your experience with doing all
the Mahler symphonies. I have only played the first and third and
fourth, on oboe and English horn and Eb clarinet.

But your note requires some responses. Let me lay just a few of these
out, in a spirit of comradeship.

> Regarding the bass clarient, you suggested:
> Whether the instrument Mahler had
> in mind had a straight or an upturned bell does not affect the
> specific problem of which I spoke; i.e., it is technically
> impossible to execute on a bass clarinet that is elevated in such
> a fashion as is very possible on oboes and soprano clarinets. The
> mouthpiece entry into the mouth does not permit it, the weight of the
> instrument vitiates against it, and finally the ultimate head position
> cannot be physically achieved.
This is not quite so. It may be hard to do bells up on a straight bass
clarinet, but not impossible. The bell can be raised OFF THE FLOOR,
without necessarily raising it above the stand. Ie, to follow your
argument more, the angle the bell makes with the floor would be changed
from 90 ot 30 or 45 degrees.

I do not own a straight bass clarinet, but I do own a bass oboe, which
is about the same length as a bass clarinet and straight as an arrow.
It does a limited bells up of this sort just fine, with a distinct
increase in volume and complexity of sound when the bell is up.

Analogously,the English horn is asked to play bells up in several Mahler
symphonies. We do so, by bringing the bell up off the floor to under
the music stand.
> That physicality cannot be achieved on a bass clarinet and that you say
> otherwise leads me to believe that there is some miscommunication between
> us in terms of how a Mahlerian bells up is actually performed.
Again, who are we to say that all instruments must perform bells-up the
same way?
> Also, in your description of the number of clarinets needed to
> perform Mahler symphonies, you underestimated. Many of the symphonies
> symphonies call for 6 instruments: C, B-flat, A, D, bass in B-flat,
> bass in A. I used to bring all six! Actually the E-flat part is
> generally meant for a D clarinet but I did not own one of those.
I was referring to the fourth clarinet part in the first symphony. As I
wrote: "Do we dismiss the second Eb
clarinet part in the third movement of the first symphony, merely
because it is inconvenient for the fourth clarinet player to truck 5
Without consulting a reference, I remember that the third part in the
fifth has D C Bb A and Bb bass clarinets, the C only for a short unison
passage. Shall we dismiss the C passage?

>you overestimate Mahler's ability to be aware of
> every nuance of a symphony orchestra. I own copies of the
> autographs of most of the Mahler symphonies, and the changes that
> he made following performance after performance (and in multi
> color inks so that one knows that change occurred later or
> earlier than that change) show that the orchestral affects that
> he originally intended were not being achieved by his directions.
> So he changed his directions. Thus he was not always, as you say,
> "a professional composer ... who knew every idiosyncracy of the
> orchestra..." He tried his best to give complete directions but
> his revisions show that he sometimes failed to achieve his intended
> goal.
My point exactly. He knew what he wanted and worked hard to get it.
And he asked for bells up, so we are obliged to do so.

When in doubt, follow Mahler's directions.


Robert Howe

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