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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000568.txt from 1999/04

From: Roger Shilcock <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Re: Bells up in Mahler
Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999 21:17:48 -0400

I think this has been raised before, but do we know that Mahler actually
*meant* it - for the bass, that is?
Roger Shilcock

On Sun, 11 Apr 1999, arehow wrote:

> Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1999 16:44:31 -0500
> From: arehow <>
> Reply-To:
> To:
> Subject: [kl] Re: Bells up in Mahler
> 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
> horns?"
> 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.
> Regards,
> Robert Howe
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