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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000640.txt from 2002/06

From: Richard Bush <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Vibrato REDUX
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 15:41:16 -0400

Change "was" to "were" in the second sentence of the second

Richard Bush wrote:

> 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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