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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000466.txt from 2001/07

Subj: [kl] Marcellus Followup
Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 21:44:20 -0400

Here are some thoughts I have had since I wrote what I wrote yesterday.

Don't link long tones in any way to what I wrote about Baermann. Marcellus
didn't practice long tones and didn't encourage anyone I know to do so. I
asked him specifically why he didn't believe in them and he told me basically
the same thing that Stanley Hasty once said in a masterclass about long
tones. Again, I paraphrase:

The clarinet sound is based on intervals more than on sustained single tones.
Anyone can sound good sustaining one note, but once a few intervals are made
one can judge a clarinetist very quickly. On a single tone, it is literally
possible to confuse a very fine player with a young student.

Marcellus other reason for not practicing long tones are very practical.
First, they are boring and once you start playing with your intellect and
emotions detatched from your playing, it can become a very bad habit. Scales
require far more brain activity, no matter HOW fanatical your long tone
routine is. Second, they are time consuming and when you're in the middle of
a symphony season, there isn't any spare time for extra practice (especially
if you have a family). Practice when you only get an hour or less a day to do
it has to be fanatically concentrated.

It's hard to describe how great a player Marcellus was. There are lots of
things you have to do in an orchestra that can't really be taken home and
practiced at night. You just have to be good at them. Marcellus was so strong
this way. The other professional orchestral players will correct me if they
disagree with something I say here. Hopefully, they will add their 2 cents.

This occured to me when I was listening to the Szell Dvorak 7 earlier today.
Anyone who says the clarinet part to this symphony isn't really hard hasn't
played it (in fact it is a really difficult symphony period. Definately the
most difficult Dvorak symphony, and it isn't close).

Most students hear Marcellus and they hear the sound, which is amazing. But
if you really appreciate everything Marcellus does in this performance (and
literally hundreds like it), it's even more impressive. Even when you don't
hear him it is is impressive, because it means he adjusted his dynamics to
either blend with another instrument or to get out of the way of a more
important musical line. There are the kind of things that good chamber
musicians (and good 2nd clarinet players too) do automatically, but as
principal in the orchestra, this requires knowledge of the full score. Szell
made sure the musicians were very aware of what was going on at all times in
all parts. They had to listen to each other.

His intonation is outstanding. The solo at the beginning of the 2nd movement
is hell. First of all, you have to start with a cold b flat instrument
(presumably not a problem in a recording session), then you have to cross the
break both ways with perfect legato about 10 million times very softly and in
tune. Some of the slurs he pulls off are actually unbelievable (at least I
don't believe them).

Now what makes orchestral playing really hard isn't what I just wrote; what
makes it hard is the fact that you have to do these things on command, over
and over and over again in concerts and it has to be nearly perfect every
time. We all have memories of going to concerts and hearing some famous
musician squeak or something. We remember that forever, but in reality, it
was probably the only time the guy squeeked in the 200 times he has performed

These types of things are among the reasons that certain great retired
orchestral players: Marcellus, Wright, Leister, Brody, etc. are still so
revered. They didn't just do it for 2 or 3 concerts a year at a conservatory,
they did it every night for decades.

-David Hattner, NYC

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