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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000639.txt from 2002/06

From: Richard Bush <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Vibrato REDUX
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 15:36:16 -0400

In my formative years (assuming I've now taken on a form), I
remember vividly the flap that Reginald Kell presented to the
clarinet world. "How dare he do these things...." many would
say. At least he got some attention for his efforts, though
not a lot of it was positive.

Maybe I'm just a gumba, but I liked "some" of what he did. I
also happen to like some of the oldest, rankest, most
unschooled clarinet playing that was first recorded in the
1920's. Right now, I think the only clarinet player I don't
like is one thick tongued lady who lives and records in Britain.

Vibrato, I think is more of an issue with classically trained
American clarinetists than in other countries because America
is the birthplace of "jazz" and "legit" musicians don't want
to associate themselves with those who can't play the hardest
of the method books.

I'm always fascinated when I hear the clarinet played in
different ways. What a wonderfully expressive and diverse
instrument it is when played by people of different
backgrounds. Does anybody here like Jimmy Giuffre, by chance?

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


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