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 Molter Concertos
Author: Ed Lowry 
Date:   2018-01-12 10:49

I have been working on the Molter Clarinet Concerti, using the 1986 editions by Breitkopf & Hartel for Clarinet in D, with an alternate transcription for A clarinet. I've been working on the D clarinet versions. There are recordings on Youtube performed by Henk de Graaf and the Amaedus Ensemble, Rotterdam.

In all of the concerti, de Graaf appears to take everything down an octave when a phrase contains anything higher than [E6]. I know these notes are hard to play, particularly [F#6] and [G6], especially if one hopes to play in tune. Still, it seems to me that if Molter wrote it, the artist should play it; and if he can't, perhaps it's better to perform a different work, especially if one is holding himself out to the world as an accomplished musician, complete with impressive photograph accompanying the recording.

On the other hand, maybe there's a reason that explains what's going on other than (in)ability to play the passage. Perhaps there are different accepted versions or approaches to these pieces, and Breitkopf has simply published what, for me, is the more difficult approach! Or perhaps something else explains what's going on.

I'm very interested to hear if anyone has any thoughts about this.

Post Edited (2018-01-12 10:52)

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 Re: Molter Concertos
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2018-01-12 23:19

Ed, One of the reasons for a modern player taking the printed high notes down the octave on a modern D clarinet might lie in the player's lack of awareness of the intrinsic differences between a baroque D clarinet and a modern D clarinet (tone quality, ease of high register, difference between the stridency of a modern clarinet's high register and that of a baroque clarinet, etc).
For more discussion on this very point (and other aspects of these pieces), if you have access in print or online to The Clarinet journal, see my article on the Molter Concerti:
Aldrich, Simon. “The Clarinet Concerti of Johann Melchior Molter ”. The Clarinet, vol. 26, no. 3. (1999)


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 Re: Molter Concertos
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2018-01-13 03:10

See if you can get hold of the recordings by Jean-Claude Veilhan on a period Baroque D clarinet. You'll never want to hear them on a modern clarinet again.

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 Re: Molter Concertos
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2018-01-13 04:06

I very much agree with Liquorice. When you hear the JC Veilhan recording (on a period-copy D clarinet) you realize the baroque D clarinet is not the same instrument as the modern D clarinet, which is used more as a vehicle for sarcasm (Mahler), incision (Bartok and Stravinsky), and satire (Strauss). The baroque D clarinet has an intrinsic tone much more downy and subdued than a modern D clarinet.
For the Molter Concerti recording, Veilhan had a GH Scherer 3-key D clarinet copy made by Agnes Gueroult, at A420, the diapason thought to be in Karlsruhe at the time of the concerti's composition (ca. 1750).

Several excellent modern clarinetists have recorded the Molter Concerti on a modern instrument with a mindset similar to one they would employ when playing modern D clarinet repertoire. As a result their high notes are often aggressive, tortured, even repellent.

I have played a copy of a baroque D and C clarinet mouthpiece on my baroque C clarinet copy, and the high notes pop out easily and without force. In fact it is a challenge to get out the lower registers with baroque C and D mouthpieces. From a modern player's perspective, the notes want to always skip up to their upper partials. One could say the baroque instrument and mouthpiece were conceived to play those high notes effortlessly. Which is perhaps why on the period instrument, the high Gs do not sound so ludicrous.

By the way, over a decade ago, in my correspondance with the music librarian of the Karlsruhe Landesbibliothek (where Molter manuscripts are housed), he mentioned he had found most of a 7th D clarinet concerto in their archives.


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 Re: Molter Concertos
Author: Ed Lowry 
Date:   2018-01-13 04:23

Thanks everyone for the input. And thanks for augmenting your article, Simon, which I found in my stash of Clarinet magazines. I'll look for the Veilhan recordings. They sound well-worth acquiring.

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 Re: Molter Concertos
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2018-01-17 05:32

I should have mentioned that digital scans of the Molter D clarinet concerti autograph manuscripts can be found on the site of the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe:


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 Re: Molter Concertos
Author: Ed Lowry 
Date:   2018-01-18 04:11

Very interesting. I don't think I could read a manuscript that looks like that! We're very lucky to have well-printed music.

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