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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000634.txt from 2002/06

From: Daniel Leeson <>
Subj: [kl] Vibrato REDUX
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 12:45:12 -0400

The notes below from Jeremy Schiffer deserve some response. That
response appears following Jeremy's postings.

First posting:

> Stoltzman, I can do without very well. I have never liked his sound. I
> have a personal aversion to vibrato in classical clarinet performance. I
> won't buy his recordings. He played in Nashville with the NSO a couple of
> years ago. A friend who teaches middle school band took his clarinet
> section to the concert, and said he regreted it; hoping that they wouldn't
> try to copy Stoltzman's sound.

Second posting:

Just to follow up on my previous point of not liking Richard Stoltzman,
want to make clear that I have no aversion to vibrato in classical
clarinet music. In fact, I use it often. If you've listened to my mp3s
the Dvorak Serenade (especially the third movement), you'd know that.
This comes from having studied with a British teacher in high school
(John Denman), who was a big proponent of vibrato - though he warned me
that most Americans won't accept it, and to be careful, especially in
orchestra auditions, because it can count against you.

However, that doesn't mean that I think vibrato is always appropriate,
always done well. I like the way Benny Goodman used it, but not the way
Stoltzman always does. To be honest, there's a lot of stuff that David
Krakauer does that I'm not thrilled to hear; it's just not very musical
(to my ears). That's not to say that I don't like his playing, but there
are aspects of his playing that I wouldn't strive to emulate. I much
prefer the more straight forward (less experimental?) playing of Margot
Leverett (which is a big reason why I recently started studying klezmer
with her).

Of course, I also happen to really like Evan Ziporyn's "This is Not a
Clarinet" so who am I to comment? :-)

-Jeremy Schiffer
1st Clarinet, Columbia Wind Ensemble
Clarinet, Columbia Klezmer Band

Leeson's response:

There are several things that I'd like to comment on here because Jeremy
begins his posting with a statement sufficiently strong that he felt it
necessary to clarify what he had said in his second posting. There's
something Freudian there. He may have an unfulfilled desire to visit
Yellowstone National Park or whatnot.

As a complete irrelevancy, I'd like to mention that I like Stolzman's
playing and I have no idea if his sound is measureably different from
most other clarinetists trained as he was, namely in classical
performance. I know that it is easy to say, "I don't like his sound,"
but that is a pile of doo-doo as a statement in itself, because one can
make it without any explanation that is objective, clear, rational, or
useful. When pressed for some reasons, many players will say (as if it
is the obvious cause behind Stolzman's suggested-to-be-unpleasant
sound), "He plays double lip," (which he does by the way). And that
sort of closes out the conversation as if some rational reason has been
given for his allegedly ugly sound.

Mind you, I think Jeremy has a perfect right to like what he likes and
hate what he hates. It's a free country. But while he begins his
comments innocently enough, his later remarks appear to me as if he is
expressing what he believes to be clarinet-playing orthodoxy. Maybe
that is not his intention, but that is the way it reads at this end.
And maybe I'm being unfair to him. However, I try to read between the
lines, and that is what I think is on Jeremy's mind. Maybe I have an
unfulfilled desire to visit Yellowstone National Park.

Clarinet players in America more than anywhere else, are neurotic about
the use of vibrato. Those who don't use it are sure they don't like it,
but that may be because they have little experience with it. It's
perceived as being unAmerican, which means it is either French or,
worse, Reginald Kell-ish. Some that do use it do so in a very
apologetic manner; i.e., "I use it but sparingly, quietly, you don't
even know I'm doing it. It's hardly noticeable. You won't even hear it.
It's really not that there at all."

We have been through this vibrato neurosis on multiple occasions, but
new people come on the list and don't read what the various players said
last year and the year before and the year before that.

It was this attitude towards vibrato playing that ruined Kell's American
career more than anything else, though, in my opinion it was the
exceptional brilliance of his playing that caused most American players
to run for the hills, not his vibrato.

I'm not suggesting that the subject vanish or that anyone take a
position other than that which they feel to be true. But unless someone
is prepared to be more specific, objective, and rational, expressions
about "not liking xxx's vibrato" just don't represent either anything
more than a particular personal opinion or a statement about clarinet
sound orthodoxy.

In my opinion, vibrato, like wooden vs. metal clarinets, sound
production, clarinets in C, the lovely French sound, etc. is just part
of the "great misunderstood and therefore disliked" in American clarinet

P.S. And I like Krakauer's sound too!

** Dan Leeson **
** **


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