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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000173.txt from 2007/12

From: "Mark Gustavson" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Mendelssohn Reformation Symphony
Date: Tue, 25 Dec 2007 14:36:19 -0500

> Dear Benedict:
> Robert Howe's suggestion that you learn to transpose the C parts on your
> B-flat clarinet is a good one. It shouldn't take too long to learn with
> patient practice. It is a very useful skill for any clarinetist,
> especially
> an enthusiastic amateur. It would allow you to play duets with your
> flute-
> and oboe-playing friends, for example.
> Dan Leeson's point that most 18th and 19th Century composers were only
> following the rules of orchestration when they chose an instrument is
> probably correct, in my opinion. I would also speculate that some
> composers
> may have chosen to leave the clarinet part in C in order to allow the
> performer to choose the instrument to be employed. I once played the
> clarinet 'concerto' in Rossini's opera 'Alcina,' which is written in the
> key
> of E major for the C clarinet, on the A clarinet because it put the solo
> into the key of G and made the trills considerably easier. I doubt that
> the
> composer would have disapproved.
> I also agree that Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler WERE looking for a
> particular color when they wrote for the C clarinet, not simply range.
> However, I think the number of professional orchestras which use a D
> clarinet for 'Till Eulenspiegel' is very small, in spite of the fact that
> Strauss originally wrote for that instrument.
> Best wishes to everyone for the holiday season.
> Steve Hartman
> New York, NY
Mahler can be an enigma. He certainly had an ear for what he wanted for Bb
and what he wanted for Eb. There are times when I think he also knew what
he wanted for C. However, there are other times in some of his works where
one will find those odd moments that make you switch to a different
clarinet to play a few notes (even one I think) and then back again for no
better reason than following old orchestration rules as keys are changing.
I always transposed C parts until I started performing Donizetti, Bellini
and Rossini operas. I tried performed them both transposing and using the
C and realized that in melodic passages where the principal flute, oboe
and clarinet play in unison the C clarinet not only blends better but it
keeps the sound lighter. Or passages where there is imitation between
these same instruments. Sure I can make timbral adjustments with the Bb
but the C HAS that sound and my intuition tells me that the Italian bel
canto composers wanted a certain lightness in the winds.
Schubert may have been simply following orchestration rules with the C
part in the Octet but the character of that movement fits the C clarinet
and seems intentional and is so gracefully executed with a C. On the other
hand I find the C part in the Beethoven Violin concerto difficult to sound
the way I want it on the C but I do my best. But again Beethoven was well
aware of Italian opera and maybe his imagination of that solo was for C.
Or why isn't the clarinet solo in the Trio of Beethoven's 8th not for C
but Bb? Is it timbre?


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