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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000644.txt from 2002/06

Subj: [kl] Stoltzman & Over-tuning a Clarinet
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 16:49:55 -0400

All this talk about Stoltzman got me to thinking also about his sound.

My wife and I attended a chamber concert about 6 months ago where he played
a Mozart trio and quintet.

As much as I wanted to become emotionally involved in his playing style, it
left me cold.

I have been trying to find a way to describe why I feel that way. My wife
simply said his playing lacked emotion. Kind of like elevator much on stage.

Realizing that this is such a broad statement to make, I would not go quite
that far. But his playing did leave me wanting musically as I did not feel
satisfied by his performance.

I also was thinking about a more specific way of describing his sound. To
me, it sounds as if his clarinet has been hand tuned to the point that there
are no longer any pleasing partials in his tone. Where one note simply
sounds exactly like the last and there is such an evenness to all this that
the sound is boring.

I have heard of the consequences of over-tuning and how one can remove even
the core of the sound in their quest for an evenness of tone.

I'm not talking about tuning of pitch here necessarily, but of the sound and
the partials produced by each note.

Could it be possible that his physical setup has something to do with this
sound that some of you have described as not to your liking?

I understand that Kalman Opperman tuned his clarinet, and made his barrel
and mouthpiece.

Maybe some of those on this list that have the knowledge of hand tuning
clarinets could confirm that it is possible to go to far in this quest for a
perfect clarinet.

Just a thought.

Tom Henson

-----Original Message-----
From: Daniel Leeson []
Subject: [kl] Vibrato REDUX

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!

** Dan Leeson **
** **

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