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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000636.txt from 2002/06

From: Jeremy A Schiffer <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Vibrato REDUX
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 13:43:03 -0400

On Wed, 19 Jun 2002, Daniel Leeson wrote:

> 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.

Dan, please check your attributions. This was not my posting. James Hobby
wrote this. I have never even been to Nashville.

My first posting on this topic was:

"As for Stoltzman, I can't stand to listen to him. I think he has a
horrible sound and his technique is more gimmick than anything else. I'll
take Benny Goodman, or even myself (even if I can't get the gliss at the
end right 80% of the time), playing the Copland any day over Stoltzman."

I just wanted to clarify (in my second post), after Mr. Hobby responded to
my first post and mentioned vibrato, that my aversion was NOT related to
vibrato in itself.

(more comments below)

> Second posting:
> Just to follow up on my previous point of not liking Richard Stoltzman,
> I
> 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
> of
> 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,
> or
> 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.

No, as I stated above, I just didn't want people to think I have anything
against vibrato, especially because I use it in my own classical playing.

Also, I love Yellowstone; I haven't been there in 11 years, but would love
to go back soon.

> 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.

I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. I don't believe in
any clarinet-playing orthodoxy. I just listen to things, and if it strikes
me, in a completely non-objective way, as being pleasurable to listen to,
then I'll say that I like it. I don't care how people produce sound, or
what they were taught to do. All that matters to me is the end result. To
me, Richard Stoltzman has a very empty tone, which is usually (on the few
recordings of his I've heard) airy, if I may use that word. While he
clearly has a lot of technical skill, I don't like the way he bends the
pitch; it's too much like a lot of 20th century violin music to me -
technique for the sake of technique, rather than for the purpose of makes
music that's enjoyable to listen to.

I'm sorry if my aesthetic tastes are too pedestrian for this list; while I
have taken an entire college music theory sequence, theory has no
implications on whether or not I like music. For me, it's all about what I
hear. If you have specific questions, I'll do my best to answer them, but
you have no right to assume you know what I mean, or to call my
opinions shit, especially given how little I have posted to Klarinet
since joining the list.

> 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.

But I never said anything to indicate that I think this way. You're
reading too much into my words (and reading too much into someone else's
words misconstrued as mine). Perhaps I've broken some Klarinet taboo by
having my own opinion, based on the "sensuous surface" (to borrow a term
from music appreciation) of music rather than on an objective, physically
quantifiable aspect. If so, I don't know what to say. I can sound as
erudite and sophisticated as the next guy when I want to, but that won't
help me explain why Stoltzman hurts my ears at the same time as Benny
Goodman is, pardon the pun, music to my ears.

> 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.

Duh. I was just stating my opinion, and never claimed anything else.
You're the one that twisted it into Herr Schiffer's Clarinet


Jeremy A. Schiffer
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Columbia University
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