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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000416.txt from 2004/08

From: "dnleeson" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] Re: K. 581 performance practice
Date: Sat, 14 Aug 2004 12:51:36 -0400

Carbonare's playing is well-known to me, and his technique of
playing the theme unornamented the first time round but changed
and improvised upon the second time through is the most common
approach to the problem of improvising. And it's not a bad one
either because it gives the listener a chance to hear the music
as written and then hear the music with additions created by the
player. That is a perfectly acceotabke solution when you have
music that is played once and then repeated once.

But minuets are a much more complicated problem. (When was the
last time you ever had a discussion of the minuet in K. 581. It
is invariably thought of as the least interesting movement.) In
the case of 581, the themes of the minuet are heard, in theory
six times. First you play the minuet with repeats, and that
constitutes hearing the themes twice. Then there is a da capo at
the end of the first trio and one plays the minuet AT LEAST one
more time, though it is quite possible to take the repeats again,
making four repeats of the tunes. Thne, you then play the second
trio which also has a da capo and that calls for two more repeats
of the minuet, which is how one gets to six.

Now I recognize that the idea of doing repeats caused by da copos
is almost NEVER done in contemporary performance, but that is the
fault of interpretation of how one plays minuets, not the fault
of the music.

There is hard evidence to suggest that one played repeats on the
minuet even after the trios. That evidence appears in a string
trio by Mozart, one that contains a minuet with a trio. At the
end of the trio Mozart writes a statement that appears nowhere
else in his minuet/trio writing. He says, "Da capo, le repliche
piano," or "Da capo, play the repeats softly." There is no doubt
what is says. It's plurel: "the repeatS." (And when he does not
want repeats on a da capo, he says so; i.e., "Da capo senza

So why is he saying "Da capo senza repliche?" There appears to
be only one logical conclusion; i.e., repeats on the da capo were
standard practice, but in this case he wanted the repeats played
in a special way, namely loud the first time and soft on the
second. If he wanted the minuet only played softly, he would
have written "Da capo piano" or even "Da capo senza repliche ma
piano." Of course, he might have meant something else entirely,
but I can only judge by what he worte, not what he may or may not
have meants.

And what he says in this very brief statement is that when one
made a da capo, one also made the repeats of the minuet

And as the ability to improvise elegantly diminished through both
lack of training and revisions to performance practice as time
progressed, people stopped improvising which made so many repeats
far too repetitive. And that is why we play the third movement
of K. 581 today in the following way: Minuet - both repeats; Trio
1 - both repeats or maybe none; Da capo no repeats; Trio 2 - both
repeats or maybe none; second Da capo no repeats. This way you
hear the tunes of the minuet only four times instead of 6.
Amusingly this is the standard contemporary performance practice
for minuets. And if you get together with a string quartet, you
don't even have to tell anyone what to do. Everybody knows what
the contemporary practice is even though little thought is given
to how different that practice is from the practice fo 1789.

It was the duty of the performers (rememeber that the viola has a
big solo thing in trio 1 and should be doing something himself on
the repeats) to eliminate any problems brought about by so much
repeating through the mechanism of imaginative improvisations on
the minuets tunes. Every time one heard them, there were
different ornaments, NOT NECESSARILY MORE. And in my own
personal preference, no improvisation at all on the sixth and
final presentation of the minuets tunes, this to bring you back
to reality.

Improvisation does not mean an opportunity to show how fast you
can play and how many notes you can squeeze into a measure. It is
much more associated with elegance and imagination, not
technique. If you want to see how wrong the entire mechanism
went, listen to the variations on the Carnival of Venice as
played by a trumpet. There, the repeats of the same basic tune
were made more and more complicated, so much so that the entire
musical process got reversed; i.e., instead of the performer
bringing service to the music, the music was used to bring
service to the performer.

Now listen to Charlie Neidich's performance of 581. He also

This entire argument fell on deaf ears when I spoke to John
Denman about it, so opinions vary. But this is history not
opinion. You have to know what a clarinet player in the 18th
century did as a matter of standard conduct, and not only in
chamber music but even in orchestral or operatic playing. The
aria "Il Mio Tesoro" in Don Giovanni opens with a lovely clarinet
solo. Should one improvise on that? But that is another story
for another day.

Dan Leeson

-----Original Message-----
From: Sylvain Bouix []
Sent: Saturday, August 14, 2004 7:02 AM
Subject: [kl] Re: K. 581 performance practice

Although I read the klarinet digest twice daily, I almost never
here. However, I am currently practising the K581 and although I
do not
have a good enough background to improvise during this piece I
wish I

I only have come across one recording which I found quite
inspiring. The
clarinetist is Alessandro Carbonare playing K581 and Brahms
quintet. It
is by far the most adventurous recording I have heard in terms of
improvisation, nevertheless I feel it might be the most authentic
style. He always plays the first repeat straight and alters ever
slightly the second repeat. He does this so naturally, that to me
sounds obvious this is the way it should be done. I am glad I am
up by a Mozart scholar such as Dan Leeson :)

I recommend this recording highly if only to get a different
interpretation of this work. Not to mention Carbonare's
ability to color his tone, which makes his Brahms an absolute


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