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 That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2017-12-26 23:11

(Sorry for the long subject line):

I spent part of the morning watching YouTube video interviews of great clarinetists, and clarinet instructors. It seems that many related experiencing some type of "Aha!" moment during their earlier years, when they heard one particular clarinetist or another in a live setting. As a result, they suddenly became dedicated to earnestly pursuing the clarinet on a different level than they had previously.

I was taught by (the late) Ralph Strouf, and had a genuine and deep affection for him. He privately played with Benny Goodman, knew Goodman well, and performed both classical and swing music brilliantly. He also happened to be a truly great teacher and all-around nice guy. Sadly, my personal "Aha!" moment didn't come from my years with came back in 2001 after hearing Bob Wilber in an intimate setting - completely solo with no accompaniment of any kind. The tone, the voicing, the projection...well, just about everything...hit me in a new and profound way which changed the course of my life.

Listening to these interviews on YouTube, and comparing those stories with my own - made me wonder how common such epiphanies are for clarinetists in general. Is there an "Aha!" live performance which changed your dedication to the instrument or the way you approached it? A sort of "launching-off" point (or "re-launching-off" point), so to speak?

Just curious,

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 Re: That
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2017-12-27 00:24

Maybe I'm atypical in being blown away more by recorded clarinetists than in person performances. I grew up listening to jazz clarinetists in parades, at dances, and concerts in New Orleans but the playing of classical clarinetists Leopold Wlach and Louis Cahuzac on LPs really grabbed me. In the late 1950s, I got hold of Wlach's Brahms Trio on a Westminster LP and Cahuzac's Angel recording of the Hindemith Concerto with the composer conducting. It was like shock treatment hearing the classic Viennese Oehler and the French Boehm side by side in full classical regalia. The way Wlach intertwined with the deep tones of the cello and the enormous rhytmic vitality of Cahuzac in the Schnell Second Movement and the closing Rondo taught me to listen to classical music in a detailed and receptive way. I recall thinking what a wonderful instrument the clarinet is that it can sound in these two very different ways yet still fit into the mainstream of what is classical. Thinking that I could learn to play like either Wlach or Cahuzac or--better still--like both liberated some energies in me that contiune to resonate today.

Not too long after my initiation to the classical clarinet I did get to hear Ron deKant with the New Orleans Phil, (playing in Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite) and later arranged to take lessons with him and was very impressed with Bram de Wilde in the Concertgebow. But it was the Wlach and Cahuzac recordings that initially and permanently hooked me.

Post Edited (2017-12-27 02:20)

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2017-12-27 01:16

College Roomate was Ralph’s Son Jeff Strouf :)

My moment was in 7th grade summer at ECU listening to a live recital recording of David Shifrin play the Debussy Rhapsodie there that year.

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: johng 2017
Date:   2017-12-27 01:24

For me it hearing Al Wright play at one of the 1st ClarinetFests in Denver sometime in the late 1960's. He played the Saint-Saens Sonata which as a know-it-all college student I thought was a lame piece of music. But Wright brought out the intense Romanticism of the piece and made me a believer. I had never heard that beautiful sound and flexibility of emotion. I am not sure I ever approached his playing, but it has always stuck in my mind and something to strive for.

I also remember Ralph Strouf but sadly he had the opposite effect on me. He visited my high school band in the Denver area and his little demonstration was to show how a clarinet could sound like a chicken. I was far too serious at that age and was a bit offended. Too bad, since now I would have laughed and enjoyed it.

John Gibson, Founder of JB Linear Music,

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2017-12-27 01:50

Seabreeze: Thanks, as always, for the elegant reply, and names/links. I've gone out and listened to a few pieces since you posted. Great stuff!

David: I think I might have met Jeff once...very briefly...when he had come home for a quick visit. He was out making his own way in the world at the time. Ralph was very proud of Jeff, though, and spoke of him often during our lessons. If memory serves correctly, Jeff had just won the audition for the President's Own. (Gosh, this brings back a lot of great memories!)

John: Haha! The chicken thing! I never actually got to hear him do it. However, my very non-musical sibling had to take music appreciation, and Ralph did it there...the kids loved it in that class. The Dr. of bassoon would hook up a balloon to his instrument, and make it puff up as he played some piece or another. I don't know what was in the water back then - but I know my sibling came out of the class being able to hear stuff in classical music that even I hadn't been attuned to before, and could pick out any instrument's sound in an, regardless of the gimmickry of demonstrating the instruments - the rest of the "instruction" must have been pretty substantial. That was decades ago, and my sibling still includes a healthy dose of classical music in an otherwise death-metal rotation. Thanks for sharing your experience with Ralph...what a hoot.

Thanks for the's cool to see the variety of answers emerging.

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2017-12-27 02:31

Hearing the incredible magical sound of Iggie Gennusa playing the Copland Concerto. I didn't realize he could play the piece with a jazz feel. 2nd was David Shifrin playing the Mozart Concerto as written with the extended Selmer clarinet. 3rd, Eddie Daniels playing the Copland Concerto with his really fun version of the cadenza, and finally Julian Bliss playing the Nielsen Concerto at the ClarinetFest 2017. Just an amazing player. Oh, we cannot forget perhaps one of the best recordings of the Mozart Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra with George Szell and Bob Marcellus. I think perhaps everyone has this or had this recording.

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-12-27 06:06

I would go in a slightly different but related direction. I grew up listening to the Philadelphia Orchestra - Anthony Gigliotti, with whom I later studied, and Don Montanaro were the principal and assistant principal all the years I was studying (and beyond). I came to accept the way they played and admired their type of sound and style, which, differently as they played, were rooted in the same musical lineage.

It was a few years after I had graduated college and was no longer studying formally that I heard a performance by Gervase dePeyer when he played a chamber recital at a nearby school. I had heard recordings of his that hadn't impressed me. But hearing him live was different from hearing him on a recording. His sound and stylistic approach were very different from what I had been used to hearing and emulating, but still, I thought, his playing was quite expressive and beautiful. Hearing that performance opened my thinking more than any other experience before or since to the variety of possibilities in "classical" clarinet playing.


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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: clarinetist04 
Date:   2017-12-31 05:12

Hearing John Manasse play Mozart with our local orchestra. Then hearing Paul Meyer play the two Weber concertos, but this was on a CD. I think the latter had a bigger impact and Manasse cemented the deal.

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: sax panther 
Date:   2018-01-02 20:31

going back many years to when I was 10 years old...we were given the opportunity to learn a musical instrument at school and I had my heart set on a saxophone. My dad said a sax was way too expensive, but he could stretch to a beginner clarinet. All of the peripatetic music teachers would give a little demo of their instrument and I reluctantly turned up to the clarinet teacher's session. When he started playing the pink panther, I decided that I did want to learn clarinet after all, and although I've since bought myself some saxes and get a decent amount of gigs on them, clarinet is still my main instrument 27 years later.

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: William Hughes 2017
Date:   2018-01-03 00:44

I know this is off-topic, but I chose the clarinet after seeing Jimmy Dorsey play on some old television variety show--probably Jackie Gleason's "Stage Show".

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: donald 
Date:   2018-01-03 00:52

Many times I can think of when I was impressed or inspired, also I can recall hearing a "local hero" play some incredibly technical stuff super fast and impressive but with no expression whatsoever- and vowing to never play like that...
But here is the "aha" moment.
Richard Hawkins played at the Oklahoma Symposium in 1995. I had met him before when he'd done some refacing for the students at OU, and certainly thought he was a pretty good player, but at his OU recital I saw something that teachers had tried to explain to me but I'd never really "got" it...
He played the Denisov sonata, and jumped around the clarinet- and played extreme dynamics- with what seemed to be minimal physical effort. His embouchure stayed steady at all these extremes (I'm sure he adjusted but at a very subtle level). The impression I got was that it was his AIR that was controlling the sound and that the control of the air was happening INSIDE his mouth.
At that time I was a masters student- and had been taught about embouchure/air etc by more than one teacher but never really incorporated much of what I was taught into my playing. Seeing this in action (from fairly close up) somehow reached me. Having played badly for 25 years, I've spent the 23 years since then trying to undo bad habits and improve- and often still visualise that performance.
I've heard many of the greats play, and been inspired- but this performance was a turning point and started a wave of change.

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: TomS 
Date:   2018-01-03 23:52

Actually, in the 7th grade (1964) we had clarinetists that were prodigy's ... trained by our local Daniel Bonade equivalent, a gentleman named Merril Boyce. I had three lessons with Mr. Boyce before my parents just didn't want the expense or the trouble ... I learned more in those three lessons that in the last 50 years. You would leave each 30-minute session exhausted and mentally drained.

Anyway, one player in particular, Jay Hudson at his 2nd year of playing, sounded like an exceptional player completing their master's degree in performance. His example of sound and technical capabilities sent chills down my back ... and Jay was good at anything, including keeping his GPA at 4.0+. I remember his clarinet of choice was the Leblanc LL ... as was many top players of the day. Jay became a metallurgical engineer for ALCOA (I think) and died much too soon at about age 50 ... a genius and a nice guy.

So, inspired at an early age and by a classmate only 1 year older ...


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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: Johnny Galaga 
Date:   2018-01-09 02:34

Ralph Strouf retired in Florida in the 90s and was a part-time / adjunct professor at Manatee Community College (MCC) in Bradenton, which is now known as State College Of Florida (SCF). He lived in Parrish with his wife Lydia (who is also a clarinetist) and mainly taught lessons at MCC, but also conducted MCC's Wind Ensemble for a short while. Unfortunately, Ralph had crooked joints in his hands due to arthritis which affected his technique, but he could still play. He did a couple solos at MCC with the Wind Ensemble including the Mozart Concerto and Zigeunerweisen. His son, Jeff Strouf, is in the President's Own.

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 Re: That "Aha!" live performance that changed your view of clarinet?
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2018-01-09 10:22

I've really enjoyed seeing/hearing all the various experiences! So inspiring! Thanks to all those who have responded!

Johnny Galaga: Thanks for the follow-up on Ralph. A year or two before he retired (from UW), he led the Wyoming Centennial Symphonic Band. It was a band put together to perform at various celebrations across the state of Wyoming at the time. It was comprised of music teachers from across the state, but Ralph invited a handful of kids from his studio to perform too. I was fortunate enough to participate, and on one of the performances, I showed up, and they had too many clarinets, and needed a tenor saxophone player. I hadn't taken a saxophone, but an alto player had brought his tenor along, and offered to let me play it. That was my first (and last) time playing a Mark VI tenor, and I still remember that played itself! I still have a photo or two floating around of me standing next to Ralph after that performance while we were all putting our instruments away. Good memories.


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