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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000006.txt from 2001/04

Subj: [kl] Stoltzman and more
Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2001 03:30:14 -0400

This subject has brought out quite a few very interesting tangents, so maybe
the Cohler discussion has been rather therapeutic for many of the list
members. As for Richard Stoltzman, I had always planned to write a long
dissertation arguing how Stoltzman is the most important American clarinetist
of the century, with the sole exception being Benny Goodman. For decades
now, Stoltzman has taken the clarinet to heights unknown, while at the same
time being he most reviled clarinetist by his "colleagues." I have to admit
that during my student days I couldn't stand to listen to his playing, it
offended me with every phrase he made. His use of vibrato and his over the
top style would just raise the hair on my neck. Where did I develop such
conservative and narrow views of music? How can any twenty year old be so
assured of his musical opinions? I must have been tought all these views and
believed them and was influenced into these opinions. As an aside, this is
the same kind of experiences that perpetuate racial bigotry, homophobia,
other intolerant views.

Last year I was driving home after a concert and there was a performance of
the Brahms E-flat sonata on the radio. Its beauty was so overwhelming, I
pulled over and turned the car off to listen. I was soon convinced that I
had never heard a more beautifully phrased and elegant performance on record.
The partnership with the piano was equally artful. The gorgeous use of
vibrato and the great pitch and control of every register of the clarinet
amazed me. I decided this was the easily the finest recording of the work,
being familiar with just about every one on record including several by
violists. It turned out to be the Stoltzman/Goode recording. I had owned
this recording and hadn't listened to it for years. I had dismissed it at
some point as an example of how NOT to play these pieces, and now I thought
that this is the only living clarinetist with whom I'd want to study.

I recently had an experience with the anti-Stoltzman opinion and was shocked
by its intensity. I was shopping in a local music store for the sheet music
for ARIA, a fairly recent Stoltzman recording. One of my most talented high
school clarinet students loves Stoltzman and Benny Goodman, he is a home
schooled student and is not able to participate in the Florida Music
Educators solo and ensemble contest, so in choosing solos for study were not
bound by the contest list. He is very talented, but doesn't want to pursue
music as a career. He does however, want to play for the rest of his life.
He loves these pieces and also other jazz arrangements, so I'm having fun
learning this stuff with him as well as seeing how much his family and church
love hearing him play. I'm digressing, sorry. While I was shoping for some
of this music, one of the salespersons asked to help me find what I needed.
When she found out what I wanted, she could resist telling me how awful that
"crap" was and that Stoltzman is a "pig." She then accredited her opinion by
saying "I'm a clarinetist, so I should know." I told her thank you and just
left. I had resisted telling her that I was a clarinetist in the local
orchestra, the idea of one-upmanship was something that would have just been
part of the same kind of BS. The severity of her opinions and how she
justified them left me feeling like I needed a shower. I should have told her
that she should inform Yo Yo Ma and the Tokyo String Quartet how awful
Stoltzman is, before they decide to make any future recording with him. Were
her opinions founded on professional jealousy? How much does this cloud our
own opinions and keep our perspectives so limited? Why are clarinetists such
staunch musical conservatives?

Mario Estrada
"Stoltzman fan"

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