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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000398.txt from 2002/02

From: Daniel Leeson <>
Subj: [kl] Ed Lacy's comments
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 19:46:10 -0500

Dan Leeson wrote:

> In the first movement there is an alberti bass
> second clarinet part (which is what I was playing) and despite the B&H
> edition's directions to slur the passage, I tongued it because that is
> what Mozart wrote in the manuscript. The contractor (who was a
> brilliant first bassoonist and who had been playing that work at the
> time that my level of musicial sophistication included the Lustspiel
> overture for band) stopped us cold and said to me, "Please slur that
> passage." I should have shut up. Instead I responded, "but I am only
> playing what the manuscript requests," to which responded, "No, it
> sounds better my way." I should have killed him right then and there,
> but I said, "OK," and off we went.]

Ed Lacy wrote:

Think for a moment about an occasion on which Mozart would have heard
his own "Gran Partitta" performed. Is there any indication, despite the
marking, that Mozart would have objected to the passage being either
partially or completely slurred? I'm quite sure it is true that there
are numerous instances of pieces for winds by Mozart in which
essentially no articulations are indicated in the original score. Does
that mean that he wanted everything to be toungued? Should performers
eschew articulation for all time on the basis of that negative evidence?
Is that position consistent with the currently held position that the
performer should bring something of himself or herself to the
performance? Should the performer feel free to improvise by adding
notes or ornaments, but on the other hand be strictly bound to slavishly
follow the articulation markings in whatever is the oldest score that
can be located for each composition?
Well the piece I was referring to happened to be the c minor wind
serenade but the question is a valid one no matter what the piece.

Insofar as articulations are concerned, the bulk of music from both the
baroque and the classic periods are characterized by a frequent absence
of articulations as you say, but one cannot presume that, in Mozart's
case, this absence is the result of carelessness. The surface texture
of 18th century music (the only one that I can speak about with quality
examples) was much more rough than music of later periods. One can see
this in Brahms' editing of the Mozart Requiem ca. 1875. While he tried
very hard to allow the surface texture of the original music to come
through unaltered, he simply could not accept that much tonguing from
the basset horns and bassoons, but that was because his own music was
characterized by the LONG line, and he genuinely felt that the absence
of evidence was forgetfullness or lazyness on Mozart's part. So a lot
is slurred in the 1875 edition of K. 626 that is not slurred in the
manuscript. Personally, I think he made a very typical but romantic

But we 21st century players are left with both that legacy and the
belief that a rough surface texture is unmusical.

My experience with Mozart's articulations in his wind music is that he
is perfectly clear in what he wants, is most often quite consistent,
rarely confusing, and demands a lot of tonguing. There is a 32nd note
passage in the variations movement of K. 361 (for 2nd clarinet) that is
beyond the capability of most players. I certainly could never manage
it. And when I had to play that part, I did the best I could. Slur-2,
tongue-2. But I have heard some guys just breeze through that part.
Same thing is true in the 16th note runs of K. 375, except here Mozart
is very clear because the tonguing he requests of the clarinets, he also
requests of the oboes and bassoons.

While I don't believe in slavish interpretations, what gets improvised
on in 18th century music is the melody and sometimes the dynamics. That
could be extended to include the rhythm and even the articulation,
though the latter two have no particular improvisational tradition.

Bottom line: I don't know, but I doubt if random departure from the
written articulation (or rhythm) as an extension of the principle of
improvisation has very much written about it. But I also suppose that
if one could do it well (whatever that means), it might be quite
** Dan Leeson **
** **


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