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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000357.txt from 2001/04

Subj: Re: [kl] Questions for former Marcellus students
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 20:06:06 -0400

As you can see from some of the less than charitable comments made here, the
opinions on the playing and musicianship of Robert Marcellus are hardly
unanimous. In fact, the mention of his name seems to rile up some of the
readers here to higher than usual levels of bile and negativity.

That said, my feeling is that once you accept what Robert Marcellus was and
what he was not, what you are left with is an awesome standard of performance
plus musical and personal integrity of the highest degree.

Marcellus comes from an older school musically, which believed that Mozart
(for example) and his music was something that existed in a pure state.
Informed performance practice now suggests that performing Mozart's music is
a collaborative act between Mozart and the performer. Marcellus did not
accept this, it was too radical for him to adjust to after a lifetime of
experiencing the kind of performance standards most of us could only dream of.

In all fairness though, it should be said that Marcellus was hardly alone in
feeling this way. There are VERY few musicians of his generation WHO
PERFORMED AT HIS LEVEL who accepted contemporary performance practices and
embraced them.

Marcellus's true artistry came in the orchestral playing, which he was born
and trained to do. The fact that he was chosen to perform as principal
clarinetist by the most demanding conductor, George Szell, should tell you a
whole lot to begin with.
He understood as deeply as is possible the role of the clarinet in the
orchestral literature and the best way for its parts to be performed for
maximum projection when needed, and complete transparancy and blend when
needed as well. His use of tonal colors and expressive legato, coupled with
the ability to project them to the rear of any concert hall, were as perfect
as anyone's. His articulation, while not of blinding speed, was crystal clear
and beautiful, whether starting a soft note in the upper register or
executing a series of staccato notes.

Also notable were his ability to teach these principals to his students. He
spent a lot of time refining his teaching methods and usually found a way to
get his ideas across. He was closed minded on certain topics (vibrato, for
instance) but no one came to study with Robert Marcellus not already knowing
where the man stood on certain issues.

And what did I learn? I dunno. But I have a cd coming out soon and maybe you
can figure it out if you hear it. . .

David Hattner, NYC

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