Date: 2019-06-04 22:48
As a period clarinet specialist, I definitely get more play time out of my Lotz and Grenser copies per year than the original Ottensteiner Bb and A I own, but I'm incredibly fortunate that the ensembles I perform with in the US call for A438-440 late Romantic instruments on a regular basis. Just this season, I've done the following sets on my Ottensteiner instruments:
Brahms 3 and Mendelssohn 3 (Mendelssohn is a bit anachronistic, but it saved us having to do the concert at two pitches)
Rubinstein 4th Piano Concerto (also somewhat anachronistic, but worthwhile on romantic instruments)
Another Brahms Requiem just last weekend
When I purchased these instruments from a collector back in 2012, I did so not knowing if I'd ever end up using them more than once a year. I'm very glad that I've been able to, though I did end up having to build new mouthpieces without the metal facing. Much like Mühlfeld, I found the metal facing more hindering than helpful, though I did find it interesting that Ottensteiner included a metal bite guard on the beak in the new mouthpieces he remade for Mühlfeld after their correspondence. Interestingly, the originals I own are very happy either at the "low" pitch of around 437 or a "higher" 440 pitch, though I did have to make shorter barrels to get the pitch that high. I've played a number of Baermann-System clarinets in the past, and most are pretty stable around 437-440 provided the right mouthpiece is used. Both conical bore and straight bore mouthpieces work, though the originals are almost always conical with an exit bore around 15.0 to 15.2mm
In the past I've used these instruments for Wagner, Strauss, and Mahler, though they obviously feel most at home with the Brahms sonatas and chamber repertoire. When I've been asked about the "early music" movement pushing so far forward, I've always emphasized that the "historical performance" aspect of what I do is much more concerned with recapturing the sound of the music through the techniques, phrasing, and rhetoric of the performance, and that the instrument is just an extension of that research. Obviously, the instrument is the most visible part of such research, but in preparing late romantic music, I'm much more interested in the tempo flexibility, treatment of note connections, and rubato, particularly when it comes to Brahms. Having been fortunate to do the Brahms Quintet multiple times on period instruments, I can definitely say that the FEEL of the music is radically different, particularly in the second movement, however, much of that feeling if not most, comes from attempting to look at the text on the page with fresh eyes and ears. The clarinets help me get there, but the majority of the work is done by deciphering the music itself.
I have a few more calls for the late 19th century instruments this year, including a performance at ClarinetFest this summer. Unfortunately, my orchestra is pushing Brahms 4 back to the 2020-21 season, so we won't get to complete the cycle in the fall. Incidentally, I'll be rehearsing the Brahms 2nd sonata and Schumann Fantasiestücke with an old Streicher piano in Boston next Wednesday, so I'll report back on how the clarinets like being paired with that piano.
Historical Clarinets and Chalumeaux
Post Edited (2019-06-04 22:49)