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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001068.txt from 2001/02

From: Daniel Leeson <>
Subj: [kl] For Sean Osborne
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2001 12:58:31 -0500

Thanks for your note about the K. 581. It was your performance on MP/3
that I enjoyed very much particularly the improvised material.

What I want to mention is a matter of terminology and I do so more for
the younger players to get it right than for the older ones who can use
any terminology and still have the right idea.

The word for the thing that we talking about is "improvisation," not
"ornamentation." Ornamentation refers to the correct interpretation of
an ornament PUT THERE BY THE COMPOSER. That is, if the composer writes
a mordant, we ornament the note by playing a mordent. So ornamentation
is strictly the province of the composer and it is very fixed, though it
certainly is not a simple task. In the case of a mordent, for example,
there are a dozen ways to do it.

Improvisation is change to the composer-created text by the performer,
preferably spontaneously, and without composer guidance as to where to
do it and what should be done during the improvisation. It is that part
of our performance duties that allow us to become a partner in the
creative process, not simply a reproducer of what is on the page.

To sum it up, ornamentation is the province of the composer.
Improvisation is the province of the performer.

I only mention this because I very much value improvisation in music of
the classic period and I encourage people to (a) learn about it and then
(b) do it. They also have to learn about ornamentation but that is a
different story entirely. On that subject, there are a ton of books.
On classical improvisation, there is almost nothing.

Are you aware Sean, that your predecessor and my former colleague and
friend, Herb Blayman is recovering from a heart attack? Herb held the
chair at the Met from 1950 until around 1979 or 1980 at which point he
retired to Belen, NM where he still lives. We chat on occasion and we
even see each other whenever I drive near Albuquerque. Belen is about
35 miles south of Albuquerque. If you are ever near there, he'd
appreciate a visit and is a terrific host with a ton of great stories.
** Dan Leeson **
** **

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