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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000581.txt from 2001/02

From: Gary Truesdail <>
Subj: Re: [kl] An absolutely mind-blowing event!!
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 03:05:30 -0500

Ditto from here.


Ian Black wrote:

> After reading this from Dan Leeson, I am even more interested in getting
> hold of a copy of this film. If there is anyone on list who has the tape and
> the facilities, and who would be prepared to put this onto a VHS (PAL) tape
> which could be viewed in the UK, and mail it to me, I would be most
> grateful. Email me off-list if you can do this, and we can agree the
> details. Of course I will pay the postage and appropriate expenses.
> Thanks
> Ian
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Daniel Leeson []
> Sent: 15 February 2001 17:28
> To:
> Subject: [kl] An absolutely mind-blowing event!!
> With the assistance of a Canadian clarinetist who had a copy of the
> tape, I obtained the 1-hour film, "The Enigma of K. 621b." While one
> can quibble about some technical details, the film is an absolutely
> remarkable picture of a determined clarinetist (Gilles Thomé who is
> either French, Swiss, or Belgian) and what he decided to do in order to
> play the Mozart clarinet concerto on a basset horn in G.
> I know nothing about the origin of this film. It was shown on
> Australian TV where a friend brought its general contents to my
> attention. I then posted on Klarinet and received some sketchy
> information about it and finally the address of a Canadian who had a
> copy, though in a format unacceptable to US VCRs.
> On finally receiving a copy of the tape I played it through and sat in
> absolute astonishment. In an English language voice-over the narrator,
> who is supposed to be Thomé, spoke of his interest in the G-basset horn
> version of the work but was stopped by the fact that such an instrument
> was simply unavailable, and there were only 3 examples in the world of
> such a device.
> Further complicating his search was the realization that the manuscript
> of K. 621b calls for a low C#, a note not known to be present on any
> basset horn, in F or in G at that time and nowhere else called for by
> Mozart in anything for basset horn. To me this issue was a straw man.
> If Mozart wrote a low C#. then whoever the concerto was destined for had
> the note so it was not central to the problem even though Thomé made it
> such. It really impacted him to the extent that the instrument he
> intended to build had no predecessor model to help him locate the place
> for a low C# hole.
> So, off Thomé goes around Europe looking for various things to help him
> understand the entire situation. First he goes to Winterthur to examine
> the manuscript of K. 621b, absolutely the right thing to do even in the
> face of the fact that a copy of that manuscript is published. Still,
> there is nothing like examining the original for ink color, pagination,
> watermarks (which could have been looked up in Tyson's book on Mozart
> watermarks), etc. And in any case it gives one goosebumps to see such
> a thing so I am in complete understanding why this was his first step.
> Next he went to several museums in German to examine and to play various
> basset horns. He certainly looked at the only three in the world that
> were in G. And, remarkably, one of them had a bell exactly like the
> previously unknown one on Stadler's basset clarinet; i.e., at an
> absolute right angle to the instrument's body and shaped like an English
> horn bell, not at all like a clarinet bell. It also had a vent hole the
> size of a dime in it which one can use to get a low B-natural, though
> nothing was said about this on the show.
> All the while this adventure is going on, you hear Mozart's clarinet and
> basset horn music being played on the very instruments that you are
> seeing. I'm sure that they had to kill themselves to get these basset
> horns and clarinets into shape to be able to be played, but they sounded
> gorgeous!! A bad note here and there, and some few intonation problems,
> but a real revelation in terms of sound character.
> Next, Thomé went to see H.C. Robbins Landon, the Haydn/Mozart specialist
> who lives in Vienna (though he is an American). And with Thomé speaking
> French and Landon speaking English, I'm not at all sure what information
> was conveyed between them. But Landon's stuff was very good and Thomé's
> comments translated, so you can understand the technical gist of what
> was taking place.
> Finally, Thomé goes to a castle in Czechoslovakia or Hungary (where he
> speaks French and they speak Czech, so how the hell did they understand
> each other) and he sees three perfect basset horns made by Lotz in
> absolutely mint condition. The metal was still shiny. These are the
> old style basset horns with a bend in the middle, not the curved ones.
> Finally, he builds a basset horn in G, and about the first half of K.
> 621b is done on original instruments, very beautifully too, by the way.
> He is an excellent player, whoever he is.
> This film is an absolute treasure for clarinetists. I don't know how
> you are going to get it if you are interested, but sell your children,
> mortgage your home, but get it anyway you can, that is, if this kind of
> stuff interests you.
> The Enigma of K. 621b with Gilles Thomé. I don't know where or by whom
> it was made and can't read it off my TV screen because I am dealing with
> a copy that was made from a copy that was made from... You get the
> idea.
> My copy shows that it was shown on Australian TV because, following the
> final scenes, a TV lady comes on and tells me about the joys of Sydney
> or Adelaide or someplace in Australia.
> By the way, Thomé makes a big deal about the low D# also being present
> and required in the G basset horn, but I don't know what this fuss is
> about. The low E-flat is required in the second basset horn part of the
> Gran Partitta and that dates from 1784 so why should the basset horn in
> G NOT have a low D#? It's the same bloody note and a completely
> non-problem issue.
> Oh yes, the clarinet quartet of the Gran Partitta is played on the film
> with three players. Stuff like that, which will get by no clarinet
> player who ever lived. Artistic licensee, you know.
> --
> ***************************
> ** Dan Leeson **
> ** **
> ***************************
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