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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000397.txt from 2004/08

From: Andy Raibeck <>
Subj: RE: [kl] K. 581 performance practice
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 2004 14:35:30 -0400


- I consider the colorization of black & white movies to be a form of
vandalism, I don't believe in attempting to "repair" the Venus di Milo, nor do
I believe in cutting repeats or other parts of the music, at least not unless
the composer gave explicit permission to do so. Heck, before I started this
thread, for all I knew composers used repeats because that was simply the style
in which the music was played (write once, play twice). With the collectively
short attention spans today (at least in the USA), this wouldn't have come as a
surprise: whereas 18th century listeners might have loved the beauty of the
music and enjoyed hearing it twice, today's listeners are less patient. But now
that I have a better understanding, I will consider your advice an opportunity
to expand my studies.

- I think the members of my quintet don't find the music boring per se; rather,
they just find it repetitive. But as you've pointed out, there is a reason for
those repeats, and it isn't necessarily just to play the same thing twice, the
same way each time. It all boils down to education.

- The clarinetist you referred to is almost certainly John Denman, of whom I am
a "grand-student" (my current teacher studied with him). He passed away either
before I moved to Tucson, or at least before I'd taken the clarinet up again,
so I did not have the opportunity to meet him.

- My purpose in mentioning the recordings was to see how you might reconcile
those performances with what is considered proper performance practice of the
music. From your comments, I infer either (a) you would consider such
recordings to not reflect proper performance of the music, or (b) removing the
repeats is just plain wrong, but it is still minimally acceptable to play the
repeated sections without improvisation. It would be interesting to hear what,
if anything, Tony Pay has to say about this. Note that I did not say, or intend
to imply that he cannot improvise (since I don't know him, wouldn't it be
rather silly of me to do such a thing?). Rather, I was merely making a
statement of fact regarding the performance on his recording. With that said...
are there any recordings that you would recommend? I would certainly love to
hear a performance that emulates the practices of the 18th century.

- On a related note: in my mind this raises a question of distinguishing
between accepted 18th century practice versus current accepted practice. I'm
sure that the purist would argue that there is no such distinction; that the
*only* acceptable practice is as it was done in the 18th century, with which my
relatively uneducated opinion would agree. But obviously we do have
performances today that do not reflect those practices.

- I am certainly open to reading up on performance practice. If you happen to
have any particular recommendations (or any ones to stay away from) then any
advice would be appreciated.

If you're ever in the Tucson area, pizza's on me!



--- dnleeson <> wrote:

> Let me make two points: the fact that you don't hear many
> clarinetists doing very much improvisation in K. 581 doesn't mean
> that one should not do any. What it means is that most clarinets
> (1) don't know about 18th century performance prctice, or (2) are
> not comfortable improvising, or (3) don't think it is necessary
> under the argument of gilding the lily, or (4) have had no
> experience improvising in the classic repertoire. So because you
> don't hear these things on recordings is not a valid reason to
> presume that what I shared with you is not true.
> Second point: since you have had the kind of background you
> describe, it might be best for you to work with someone in Tucson
> who can guide you in how to begin thinking about improvisation.
> I don't know who is there now besides your teacher and Jerry
> Kirkbride. The former clarinet teacher at U of A (who died only
> a couple of years ago) refused to improvise (though he was an
> excellent jazz clarinetist) because he believed that the music
> was beautiful enough with it. We spoke about that issue many
> times. You are not going to find many people with whom you can
> talk about this subject. But try the piano faculty and ask any
> of them what their thoughts are about improvising in the Mozart
> piano concerti. If one or more of them is familiar with the
> practice, work with them for a while.
> In sum and substance, most contemporary clarinet players have
> moved away for the bag of working tools that was expected of
> every 18th century clarinetist. Therefore you will find
> difficulty in finding someone who can teach you. (By the way, if
> you think that Tony Pay can't improvise, you must listen to his
> recording of the piano quintet, K. 452 with Robert Levin. There
> you will see that he is quite comfortable with the practice under
> the circumstances of that work.)
> You asked what the performance practice was for 581 and I told
> you what the practice was for repeats. It is up to you to decide
> if you can or even want to do the music that way.
> I add that in thinking about your first posting, I was not
> descriptive enough. For example, when you suggested that some of
> the players only wanted to play half (or even less) of the slow
> movement because it was too boring, I kind of got the idea that
> the group had no respect for the music at all. You can's assert
> respect for that music and at the same time suggest that you are
> going to cut it in various ways to avoid the boredom.
> And then you said that you (or the other players) want to
> eliminate the repeats because the work is boring with them in
> shows only that you are uncomfortable or uninformed with the
> structure of a piece of 18th century music and what you must do
> to work within that structure. Even your reference to what Tony
> Pay played in "the cadenza" of the final movement is confused.
> There is no cadenza in the final movement (nor in the slow
> movement, either). What is there is something else entirely and
> what you are supposed to do there can be found in a book on
> performance practice. There are many books on performance
> practice and, depending on the time available to you and your
> seriousness of purpose, you may not want to dip your toe into
> that ocean.
> It is as if you had said, "Let's paint the Venus di Milo red
> because all that white marble is boring. And while we're at it,
> buy a couple of arms from a mannekin and glue them on." Such an
> assertion (which is effectively what you suggested about 581)
> would show that you don't appreciate classic Greek statuary.

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