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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000380.txt from 2001/04

From: "Gregory Smith" <>
Subj: [kl] Re: Questions for former Marcellus Students
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 05:32:46 -0400

Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 18:47:56 -0700
From: Daniel Leeson <>
Subject: Re: [kl] Questions for former Marcellus students
Message-ID: <>

D. Leeson said:
>>>recording it was that I found the tempi to be without energy. I did =
>the words "annoyingly slow" but since you asked, I went and put the
>recording on and listened to segments of it. My opinion, and that is
>all it is, just an opinion, is that it was a performance without any
>internal energy, and this aggrevated whatever tempi Szell decided to
>take. I always loved Szell's Mozart. It thought him to be one of the
>finest Mozart conductors of the 20th century. But in that recording =
>on that day and with that player, the performance did not work for me.

>I do not want to get into a dispute about the recording. My objective
>was simply to state that the Marcellus recording does not hold the
>universally positive opinion from all clarinetists that I thought you
>were suggesting.

No? What makes D. Leeson now a scholar in this catagory? His =
communication with many the top wind performers of the day? I would =
suggest that this kind of statement is opinion only and not based on =
fact - a rather unscholarly approach from a scholar of his stature. (No =
group by the way can hold a "universally positive opinion" on anything, =
so unfortunately I personally find this a statement of no useful value.)

>I do not put myself up as an authority on Marcellus' playing. On the
>contrary, I found him a marvellous performer. It was simply that =
>recording for which I waited for years that was so disappointing to me.

>And while no other person has voiced a view on that performance on this
>list as part of this discussion, from the last time round on this, I
>believe that others may still hold similar opinions.

Do you mean on this list? Or are you referring to the active performing =
wind professionals in the trenches (nationally & worldwide) that I =
personally have found hold an opinion in most cases diametrically =
opposed to what you say for the last 25 years?

Or is the innuendo that there is a "silent majority" out there - again, =
on this list - that hold similar opinions to yours only simply because =
they would not dispute you in the last go around in this unending debate =
as I did?

You demonstrated in the last debate revolving around authentic =
performance practice that you've had an out for Marcellus and his =
(timely interpretation) simpy because he (because of Szell) did not =
improvise to your liking - that being the thing making it unimaginative. =
That was the real crux of the issue wasnt it Mr. Leeson?=20

For someone rightly in favor of improv. in Mozart , how could anyone =
interpret your dislike for the Marcellus recording any other way than =
based on your comments last time around regarding lack of authentic =
performance practice? Now, this time, it's simply pedantic and =
unimaginative? You can't have it both ways. (I remind readers of this =
list that the recording was done way back in 1961 - long before it =
became commonplace once again to regularly improvise )

I think David Hattners previous post says it best about the musician and =
his unimpeachable integrity when it came to performance and teaching.

I requote David:

Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 20:06:06 EDT
Subject: Re: [kl] Questions for former Marcellus students
Message-ID: <>

"As you can see from some of the less than charitable comments made =
here, the=20
opinions on the playing and musicianship of Robert Marcellus are hardly=20
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 =
what he was not, what you are left with is an awesome standard of =
plus musical and personal integrity of the highest degree.

Marcellus comes from an older school musically, which believed that =
(for example) and his music was something that existed in a pure state.=20
Informed performance practice now suggests that performing Mozart's =
music is=20
a collaborative act between Mozart and the performer. Marcellus did not=20
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=20
feeling this way. There are VERY few musicians of his generation WHO=20
PERFORMED AT HIS LEVEL who accepted contemporary performance practices =
embraced them.=20

Marcellus's true artistry came in the orchestral playing, which he was =
and trained to do. The fact that he was chosen to perform as principal=20
clarinetist by the most demanding conductor, George Szell, should tell =
you a=20
whole lot to begin with.
He understood as deeply as is possible the role of the clarinet in the=20
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 =
the ability to project them to the rear of any concert hall, were as =
as anyone's. His articulation, while not of blinding speed, was crystal =
and beautiful, whether starting a soft note in the upper register or=20
executing a series of staccato notes.

Also notable were his ability to teach these principals to his students. =
spent a lot of time refining his teaching methods and usually found a =
way to=20
get his ideas across. He was closed minded on certain topics (vibrato, =
instance) but no one came to study with Robert Marcellus not already =
where the man stood on certain issues."

And for those that have never heard the recording and will hear it for =
the first time soon....well I envy all of you.


Gregory Smith =20

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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