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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000608.txt from 2001/07

From: David Glenn <>
Subj: [kl] German clarinetists defend German system
Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2001 11:53:03 -0400

Here is a message from Germany (and Austria to some extent) which I
think will interest you a great deal. I am closer to it than most of
you and have wrestled with the possibility of changing to German system.
I decided against it, stayed in Germany and paid the price for it.
Germany has been very good for me though this attitude has often
disturbed me. It makes a striking contrast to England where they are
relatively more open for different opinions.

Enough of my opinion. Here I have translated two letters and one article
which I found in the June issue of "'rohrblatt", a German magazine for
oboe, clarinet, bassoon and saxophone (publ. by K.Hofmann). In addition,
the first letter was published in the July/August issue of "Das
Orchester", magazine for orchestral and radio-choirs (publ. Schott).
Copies of this e-mail go to both magazines.

Letter No. 1:

The Existence of the German Clarinet is Endangered,
Open Letter from the Clarinetists of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,
(Wenzel Fuchs, Peter Geisler, Walter Seyfarth, Karl-Heinz Steffens,
Manfred Preis)

Koenigstrasse 46, 70173 Stuttgart.

Dear Sirs/Madams,

We, the clarinet group of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as well as
the undersigned musicians are highly concerned about the survival in our
country of the German Clarinet in favor of the French Clarinet. In order
to explain the problem more closely, please allow us a short historical
sketch of the clarinet and the development of its two differing systems.

The clarinet was developed from the chalumeau around 1700 by Johann
Christoph Denner. Through its large range and singular tonal beauty, it
advanced to become the leading instrument of this time and inspired many
important composers such as Stamitz and Mozart, later Weber, Brahms,
Reger and Richard Strauss to create some of their greatest works. Based
on the fingering system and the bore of the instrument we speak of the
"German Clarinet" or German system. In the middle of the 19th century,
the Frenchmen Theobald Boehm, H.E. Klosé and L.A. Buffet developed the
"French Clarinet" (also called Boehm Clarinet), which differed from the
German system though a different bore and the so called ring key system.
Important compositions for this instrument were written, especially in
French-speaking areas, especially by Ravel and Debussy and in the 20th
Century by Messiaen, Françaix and Stravinsky.

The cause of our worries is the increasing spread of the French system
in German music schools, conservatories and orchestras. If our
information is correct, representatives of the Boehm clarinet are being
considered for two vacant professorial posts in Baden-Wuerttemberg
[southwest German state]. With this development, we clarinetists see the
continued survival of the German clarinet most highly endangered and do
not want to let things continue this way with out doing anything about

We would like to stress the fact that the German clarinet has many
instrumental and singular tonal possibilities of expression. Our
instrument represents an important part of the much admired orchestral
tradition in Germany.

We think it is noteworthy that since recently, the clarinetists of the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, encouraged by their conductor Daniel
Barenboim, change from Boehm to German clarinets for German symphonic
literature. Here, one is busy displacing the German through the French
clarinet. Barenboim was especially fascinated by the sound of the German
clarinet during many guest appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra as well as while conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin.

It would be an irreplaceable loss and for following generations not to
be understood if through neglect of a tradition, valuable musical sounds
would be lost. The German clarinet as a culturally valuable part of our
German music history must absolutely be preserved and this is therewith
an urgent task for all relevant teaching institutions.

In the south of Germany, through the tradition of wind music, especially
many young talents mature. After their musical beginnings on the German
system, they would find at two important conservatories in
Baden-Wuerttemberg teachers of the Boehm system. The two clarinet
systems differ greatly in aspects of material and playing technique.
Thereby it is foreseeable that young German clarinetists will turn away
to other German conservatories. Students of the Boehm clarinet would
apply to above mentioned institutions. Because of the differing systems,
that would be at this time only foreign students. Do we want German
conservatories to educate contrary to what the German market and the
German orchestra scene demands?

Therefor we urgently appeal to you as the responsible persons in culture
and politics to see to it that only artistically and pedagogically
capable representatives of the German clarinet will be called upon to
educate the young ones of our country.

In expectation of your esteemed answer, we remain with many thanks and
sincere greetings,

Peter Geisler

I won't list all of the 63 undersigned but they are from all over
Germany and some of them are well know. They include Alois Brandhofer,
Heinz Hepp, Ulrich Mehlhardt, Sabine Meyer, Gerhard Starke (all
clarinetists), Heinz Viotto (mouthpiece maker) and Daniel Barenboim. The
clarinetists come from different orchestras, some of them well known
such as Guerzenich Orchestra Cologne, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig,
North German Radio Orchestra Hamburg, Radio Symphony Orchestra
Frankfurt, Mozarteum Salzburg, etc.

Here is the

letter No. 2:

Standpoint of the Deutsche Klarinetten-Gesellschaft [German Clarinet

If the information is correct that the position of clarinet professor at
the conservatory in Trossingen will be taken by a musician who
represents the French fingering system, the Deutsche
Klarinetten-Gesellschaft, represented by their chairman, wishes to
express its critical concern and urge the search committee to reconsider
such a decision.

If the conservatory would stick to this decision, it would no longer be
attractive for students who play German system. Aside from that, there
would be a danger that pupils would possibly be influenced to change to
the French system and so to deprive themselves of the chance of getting
a position in a German orchestra. I refer to the thorough report which
the clarinet group of the Berlin Philharmonic has written and which has
been signed by many well known clarinetists. I wish to emphasize once
again that we admire the French system and their representatives just as
much as we do those of the German system.

Heinz Hepp
Deutsche Klarinetten-Gesellschaft

And here is the article:

Conservatory Trossingen
Massive Criticism on the Nomination of Professor for Clarinet
Conservatory Presents Chen Halevi

Actually, Professor Waldemar Wandel would have reached retirement age at
the end of March 1994. But the professor of clarinet at the State
Conservatory in Trossingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg remained a further five
years in office, partly out of the joy of working, partly for want of a
successor. Until the end of the summer semester 1999. François Benda
[translator's note: Benda also plays Boehm system] had been asked to
come to Trossingen as a result of the first vacancy announcement but
then went to the H[ochschule] d[er] K[uenste] Berlin [tanslator's note:
he also teaches at the conservatory in Basle, Switzerland]. Albert
Friedrich took over the lessons of the new arrivals, later Stefan
Schilling and Rudolf Koenig - each with a limited time contract. At the
beginning of 2000, the professorship was advertised again. Deadline
April 10, 2000. [Follows a copy of the advertisement] Three lines [out
of over 30] of the advertisement describe the qualifications of the
candidate. Searching for “a personality who can show internationally
respected artistic qualities and corresponding pedagogical experience.”
Two thirds of the ad are state employee legal text (see ad [which I have
not translated]).

The conservatory search committee chose three candidates from the
applications and put the Israeli Chen Halevi at the top of the list. In
positions two and three are clarinetists from German orchestras. Chen
Halevi is almost unknown in Germany, aside from the fact that he plays
French system. The search committee who at times during the audition
lessons were represented by only one member and which included the
student representative as the only clarinetist apparently let themselves
be convinced by one of their members that the German clarinet was in any
case, a soon to be discontinued model.

The decision of the search committee called up the opposition of the
clarinetists in the German orchestras and the other German
Conservatories. Thus Peter Geisler wrote an open letter in the name of
the clarinetists of the Berlin Philharmonic to the Ministerium for
Science, Research and the Arts in Stuttgart. This letter was signed in
the meantime by 62 musical personalities. Also Daniel Barenboim,
conductor of the Staatskapelle Berlin supports the protest of the
colleagues with his signature. The ministerium and the conservatory
remain silent. Queries from the editor of this magazine to the rector of
the conservatory, Prof. Juergen Weimer remain unanswered. The
ministerium responded only to say that the process was not yet
completed. Peter Geisler has not yet had any response from his letter of
March 29. On May 20, he again requested an answer from the ministerium:
“ occurrence with wide resonance in the music world should not go
unnoticed by you.”

[a picture with the title: "Who is Chen Halevi?" shows a young man with
shoulder length dark blonde hair holding a Boehm system clarinet with a
crystal mouthpiece with a metal ligature.]

Chen Halevi was born in 1972 in Arad, Israel and has played the clarinet
since he was 10. His first teacher at the conservatory in his native
city was Prof. Kazap. At the age of 15, he changed to the Telma Yelin
Art School in Tel Aviv. Here, he studied with Richard Leser, the solo
clarinetist of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He refined his
knowledge of chamber music with Chaim Taub, the concert master of the
same orchestra and with the bassoonist Mordechai Rechtman.

After winning a national competition for young talents, he performed at
the age of 14 for the first time as a soloist: He played the Concertino
by Weber with the Young Philharmonic Orchestra. The success of this
concert brought him an invitation to play the Mozart Concerto with the
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta. As a soloist, he has
played with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the European Soloists, the
Heilbronn Chamber Orchestra, the Moskau Virtuosi, the Jerusalem Radio
Orchestra, the Middle German Radio Orchestra in Leipzig, North German
Radio Orchestra and the German Symphony Orchestra Berlin. He has played
recitals in Beijing, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. Christoph Eschenbach
invited him to play the entire Brahms program and played with him at the
Schleswig-Holstein Festival. Chen Halevi has worked with many composers
including Berio and Kurtág. He is well known for his interpretations of
modern concertos such as those by Françaix, Adams and Carter.

Hans-Juergen Mueller

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