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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000712.txt from 2004/08

From: "Shaw, Kenneth R." <>
Subj: [kl] Shepherd on the Rock
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 17:24:12 -0400

Ken Henderson writes: >>I've been asked to play the Schubert "Der Hirt
auf dem Felsen (Shepherd on the
Rock)" in a friend's vocal recital. Does anyone have any insights or
advice to share=3F<<

Here are postings I've collected over the past few years. (Since Mark's
security blocks MIME content, and my editor converts full addresses to
links, which are MIME, you'll have to add an "h" at the beginning of
each link.)


Dan Leeson: >>The high note "e" at the beginning of the fast section is
the one to watch. There is a terrific fingering that allows one to go
=66rom the g to the e, it involving the a-flat key played with the ball of
the left hand pointer finger, but I have forgotten if anything else is
up or down. It's been a long time.<<

Ken Shaw: You play the clarion G and open the throat Ab key with your
knuckle. This pops up to a very secure altissimo E. You can add or not
add the right little finger on the "resonance" key, according to which
sounds and tunes best. On a Buffet, I've always found that fingering to
be loud and slightly blaring, not matching well with the following C.
Therefore, I use the standard fingering, rolling my left index finger
down to make a small opening rather than venting the hole completely.
This produces a reliable slur up and makes a better match of tone color.

Breathing at the End
Tony Pay:
It may be tempting to breathe in the fifth bar from the end, after the
1/8 note B natural., but I think it's inadvisable to breathe anywhere
after the beginning of the sixteenths until the passage stops three bars
=66rom the end. If you breathe where you suggest, you have to do so
supremely well if you are not to spoil the wonderful rhythmic effect by
breaking up the ascending scale. (After all, that scale only has an
eighth note at the beginning to make it 'add up'.)
And notice, the descending scale in bars 4 and 5 from the end (245/6)
mirrors the ascending scale in bars 12 and 13 from the end (237/8). All
of those bars are in one (or even in 'a half', in the clarinet part:-),
and the 6 bars between go, 4 bars in two, 1 bar in one, 1 bar in four
(worth while slurring this last in pairs, too).
However, if you want, you can save yourself two bars much less
dangerously by snatching a top-up breath at the beginning of the
passage, between the half-note top D# and the beginning of the
sixteenths. You want to do a diminuendo on the D# anyway, and play the
descending scale lightly, to avoid swamping the soprano's words. So
it's not at all unnatural musically to begin again on the E (strongly,
but lightening) after your diminuendo D# and a snatched breath.
I've said this before, but 'snatching a breath', just like 'applying an
accent' is best done whilst playing with maximum support. For an
accent, you relax the diaphragm for a moment, and the already flexed
abdominal muscles create the sudden push. For a snatched breath, you
relax the other part of the opposition (the abdominal muscles) for a
moment, and the already flexed diaphragm draws in the maximum amount of
Actually, I don't find that the passage *is* particularly taxing from
the breathing point of view. What happens if you play with less air
passing through the instrument=3F The sound needs to be 'not resonant' in
any case for maximum effect at that speed and given that it's staccato.
You may find that it's less tricky than you think to play it all in one
breath. argues that a breath after the high D# and before
the E that begins the descending scale is not ideal, either. That D#
wants to go to that E just as badly. It is a leading tone in its way,
and I for one CRESCENDO on that D# to lead it into the E and then
diminuendo subsequently on the descending scale back to C.

This is an interesting musical argument, because it points to the
watershed between one style of playing classical music and another. I
spend a lot of time doing my best to represent the one of those styles
that doesn't make 'wanting to resolve' necessarily imply 'crescendo',
and I think it's worth making a case for it here, even if only to show
the sort of thing I mean. I probably won't convince you by argument,
but that's as it should be, because we're dealing with deeper things
than words. And as I say at the end, I might even want to concede you
your point -- after having made some of my own.
=46irst of all, an explanation of *why* you're unlikely to be convinced,
and a detailed source:
ttp:// Another way of
looking at that, which might be worth reading first:
Those two references make out a case for the idea that Schubert most
probably wouldn't have expected his performer to make a crescendo
reading what he, Schubert wrote at that point, regardless of what else
was going on.
But of course, that's not enough. The fact that the rules of eighteenth
century notation imply that you wouldn't *normally* make a crescendo at
such a point doesn't mean that such a crescendo might not be appropriate
there as an expressive *breaking* of those rules. (That's why the rules
are there, in a way, and I explain that in the first reference in
So here is one reason why I think it might be undesirable to make a
crescendo given the situation. It's the sort of reason that I think
should be taken notice of more often.
The soprano sings, starting one bar previously, bar 235:
The first bar is a top Bb, accompanied by 'tremolo' piano diminished
chord and our diminished ascending arpeggio. This high note can take
anything that clarinet and piano can throw at it by way of support, even
on modern instruments, without being overwhelmed.
But in the next bar, the soprano can be easily overwhelmed, if she
=66ollows the natural pattern of the words, as of course she should. The
pitch drops to an E, and the weak and short syllables 'ler sie' await
the next strong, 'wie', which is again strongly accompanied by both
piano and clarinet.=20
If you do a crescendo on the D#, at the end of it you risk obscuring the
soprano at her weakest. I don't say that you should play the D# without
tension -- the ability to make a contained, and so unobscuring, yet
intense sound is a necessary part of a good player's kit -- but the
tension should actually release just before (rather than going to) the
6:4 chord in the next bar, just as the soprano allows the end of the
syllable 'sie' to release before the next word. She doesn't actually
*crescendo* on the syllable, even though the next syllable is stronger.
To do so would be subverting the way words are organised.
Still, how crucial is this argument here=3F Perhaps not very. Even if
the soprano is obscured, we've heard what she's singing once or twice
before, after all. You could even make out a case that her being
=66inally overwhelmed by the clarinet is a dramatic sexual metaphor
(clarinets are better than....:-)
But it *is* crucial at other points in the piece, and at very many
points in other classical pieces, as I try to make clear in the
references. Performances that use the 'going to' metaphor as the norm
particularly damage the clarity and simplicity of the 'Shepherd on the
Rock', and its clarity and simplicity is an important part of its
touching quality. Unfortunately, it's rare to encounter a soprano,
never mind a clarinettist, who understands this. You're better off
doing it with a good amateur than with a full-blown professional
interested in showing off her voice at the expense of the words.

Neil Leupold:=20
The consolidated point made by these two paragraphs is not un-huge, in
my opinion, i.e., that encountering the exact same musical phenomenon
multiple times within a piece (be it opera, pure orchestral, chamber, or
solo) -- in the case of Shepherd, the text itself -- requires a
thoughtful approach relative to its purpose (as determined by musical
context). Your suggested justification for a dynamic climax at the LT
resolution involves a bit of faith and 'audience mindreading', as it
were. Are the audiences of today musically sophisticated enough to pick
up on the fact that they're hearing repeated lyrics, and that the
literal meaning of those lyrics the 2nd and 3rd time around defensibly
takes a back seat to other musical considerations (such as the one you
suggest, the expression of a dramatic sexual metaphor)=3F Sadly, I would
argue that they're not, in which case the "thought"-fulness behind any
given interpretation of the passage is lost on them (which is not to
suggest that a thoughtful approach should not still be taken and
applied). I'm referring more to American audiences here, and perhaps
the state of musical awareness and appreciation is different in Europe.
Music, of course, is meant to be heard, making the audience itself part
of the musical context that must play a dominant role in one's
interpretive considerations as a performer. Is this true=3F Or should
our approach to a given performance be constructed in a bubble,
irrespective of who is going to hear it=3F

Tony Pay:
I tend to take the view that in vocal music, the words should always be
heard, and I myself don't make the D# crescendo for that reason. (I
don't take a breath either, I should say; but the fact that I've already
decided to come away from the beginning of the D# makes the breath at
least undamaging.)
The idea that the clarinet might 'decide' to overwhelm the voice at that
point for a sexually dramatic reason was really just a joke, sparked off
by the other thread. But now you mention it, I can see that we could
take it more seriously, and even extend it to build a particular
interpretation of the relationship between the voice and the instrument
throughout the piece. In order to develop the notion, perhaps *the
clarinet* could be the thought of as the shepherd himself, and the voice
his anima/lover. I'll think about it.
Anyway I agree with you that the notion would need to be more deeply
represented for an audience to feel the force of such a gesture at the
end. On the other hand, I think audiences can often appreciate such
extra-musical considerations, even if they cannot articulate them. I
remember writing in another post complaining about how Perlman played
the slow movement of the Sibelius violin concerto:
"There is a masterstroke in that movement towards the end, when both
orchestra and violin begin together in crescendo, the orchestra playing
the main melody; and, as this crescendo develops, the violin is
progressively and inevitably submerged, so that when the full orchestral
climax occurs, there is the sense of a universal statement; a sort of
total outpouring of emotion beyond anything personal. [The orchestra is
marked here, "Tutta forza", well beyond anything that the violin can
possibly compete with.] =20
"But then, miraculously, as the orchestra subsides after resolving the
shattering climactic dissonance, the solo violin is revealed again, in a
wonderful little ascending scale with a sigh at the end, as though to
say that the truth of the world is both universal and particular.
"Or so I think."
This might seem a bit contrived. But my arrival at this 'explanation'
occurred as a result of trying to figure out why I always burst into
tears at that point. So my reaction was deeper than my
intellectualisation, and I think that's true for all sorts of audiences.

Tony Pay -
A note, or a passage, need not crescendo in and of itself in order to
give the listener the impression that it 'leads' to the next strong
point. A good example of that is the opening of Weber's second
concerto, where the sixteenth-note run finishes on a high F, sounding
Eb, which must obviously be emphatic. But if you tell a student that
the end of that sixteenth-note run can profitably be allowed to lighten
slightly, and that that will help the accent on the high F, they often
look at you in amazement. *Obviously* the run *goes* to the high F,
which means, to them, a crescendo throughout.
But a crescendo is often best represented on the 'next level up'. If we
slightly modify the 'I love you' example, and say very strongly instead,
"No, I really LOVE you!"
in such a way as to be taken as contradicting the notion in the
recipient that I didn't actually like them, and so emphasising the word
'love' very strongly; then evidently the second syllable of the word
'really' is less than the first, *even though the word clearly leads to
the subsequent 'LOVE'*.
Now imagine it sung by a bad singer. It's not uncommon to hear,
"...reaLLY LOVE..."
which I maintain is horrible, because the unnecessary local crescendo
distorts the words and minimises the meaning. Sometimes local
instrumental crescendos distort phrases and minimise meaning, too.
Here's another way of looking at it, which will explain the subject
header, in case you were wondering.

What's this=3F

00000 00000
00000 | 00000
00000 || 00000 =20
00000 ||___ 00000 OK, it's a chair.
00000 |/__/| 00000
00000 || || 00000
00000 | | 00000
00000 00000

What's this=3F

00000 00000
00000 | 00000
00000 | | 00000
00000 | | 00000
00000 | |____ 00000
00000 | / /| 00000 OK, it's a bigger chair.
00000 |/____/ | 00000
00000 | | | | 00000
00000 | | | | 00000
00000 | | 00000
00000 00000

What's this=3F

0000000 0000000
0000000 | 0000000
0000000 | | 0000000
0000000 | | 0000000
0000000 | | 0000000
0000000 | |________ 0000000 =20
0000000 | / /| 0000000 OK, it's an even bigger
0000000 | / / | 0000000 chair! So what=3F
0000000 |/________/ | 0000000
0000000 | | | | 0000000
0000000 | | | | 0000000
0000000 | | | | 0000000
0000000 | | 0000000
0000000 0000000

So, what's this=3F

0000000 |
0000000 | |
0000000 | |
0000000 | | |
0000000 | | | |________
0000000 | | | / /|
0000000 | | |____ | / / |
0000000 || | / /| |/________/ |
0000000 ||___ |/____/ | | | | |
0000000 |/__/| | | | | | | | |
0000000 || || | | | | | | | |
0000000 | | | | | |

Get it=3F-)

0000000 |
0000000 | |
0000000 | |
0000000 | | |
0000000 | | | |________
0000000 | | | / /|
0000000 | | |____ | / / |
0000000 || | / /| |/________/ |
0000000 ||___ |/____/ | | | | |
0000000 |/__/| | | | | | | | |
0000000 || || | | | | | | | |
0000000 | | | | | |
0000000 louder, LOUDER, !!*LOUDER*!! 0000000

Dan Leeson
While this work is invariably performed with the voice and clarinet
standing as equal solo coparticipatns, I think that the clarinetist
should be sitting and not in a particularly prominent position either.
While it is a prominent voice, of course, the solo belongs to the
singer. It is she who conveys the text and, by her body gestures and
expressions some elements of the meaning of what she is singing about.
As an obligatto part, the clarinet need not be thrust into the limelight
as if he or she shared it fully with the solo voice.
I must ask you a question. Since you have chosen to inquire of this
list if anyone has insights into the piece, can I assume that you have
not played it=3F If that is the case, I urge you to find a teacher who
can share the work with you, and make sure that the teacher has played
it too. And failing that, try to get hold of the recording with Benita
(or Caterina) Valente, Harold Wright, and Rudolph Serkin.
I also point out that the work is still from the period in which
invention was expected. The first 3/4 of the piece is an opportunity
=66or the clarinetist, but in the last 1/4, the allegro has almost no
opportunity for invention.
The toughest note occurs when the clarinetist opens up the allegro and
plays the them. The high note "e" is the one to watch. There is a
terrific fingering that allows one to go from the g to the e, it
involving the a-flat key played with the ball of the left hand pointer
=66inger, but I have forgotten if anything else is up or down. It's been
a long time.
The several trills in the slow section demand your attention. When these
trills were played in the late 1800s, it was the custom to start them
slow and get faster. That is a Brahmsian trill and, in my opinion, has
no place in the music of Schubert. There the execution of the trill was
immediate but not like a speeding bullet.
Good luck. It is exquisite music.

David Dow:
My lessons with Harold Wright echo a good deal of what already said.
However, the slow transition between movements which is a cadenza can
really be your moment to shine...the half steps really must be relaxed
before the fast section...or the finale. Harold Wright coached me on
this in a student performance , he was also very quick to point the last
12 bars as being particularly nasty, spend a good deal of practice on
getting the runs to articulations I have done the last
section all not speed up to the point(rushing) you
are unable to play the articulations.
As to tempi for the finale...not so fast that you gloss over some of the
wonderful Viennese qualities...their should be a slight coquesttish
quality to the finale...very playful and exuberant.

Tony Pay
Singers often want the music to speed up when the piano goes into
duplets, because they're worried about breath control issues later. But
it's musically much more effective if it actually slows down. They can
sing the first couple of phrases against an almost 'dead' accompaniment,
and speed up, if they really find it necessary, later. (I personally
prefer them to sing slowly, and take more breaths, using the words, but
.... well, it's up to them.)
Dan mentioned the 'Serkin' recording. I'd say this performance clearly
demonstrates that the person truly in control of any performance of this
piece is the pianist, who's often thought to have a raw deal.
So much is possible, in terms of both tempo and atmosphere, in those
'simple' triplets and duplets, -- not to mention the bass part.

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

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