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 The Clarinets role in the symphony orchestra
Author: Keil 
Date:   1999-08-09 19:03

In the traditional symphony there are only 2 clarinets and maybe 1 bass clarinet!! In youth symphonies there tends to be 4 clarinets and maybe 1 bass clarinet! My question is what exactly is our purpose in the symphony. I understand that from piece to piece our role may change but over all what are we there for? They keep so few woodwinds, it makes me wonder!

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 RE: The Clarinets role in the symphony orchestra
Author: Mark Charette 
Date:   1999-08-09 19:07

Keil wrote:
-------------------------------
In the traditional symphony there are only 2 clarinets and maybe 1 bass clarinet!! In youth symphonies there tends to be 4 clarinets and maybe 1 bass clarinet! My question is what exactly is our purpose in the symphony. I understand that from piece to piece our role may change but over all what are we there for? They keep so few woodwinds, it makes me wonder!
--------
The clarinets are easily heard in any orchestra - they seldom get "buried" - and have a good number of solo parts.

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 RE: The Clarinets role in the symphony orchestra
Author: Kevin Bowman 
Date:   1999-08-09 20:15

Don't think that because there are far fewer clarinets than violins (for example) that the clarinet's role in the orchestra is less important - far from the truth! And though it is true that only two clarinets are called for in most orchestral music, many pro symphonies emply more than just two clarinetists. Detroit Symphony employs three full-time clarinetists and a full-time bass clarinetist. Also, remember the Eb clarinet part!

Having the largest playable range of any of the woodwinds, the clarinet performs many functions in the orchestral setting. It blends well with all the instruments surrounding it in the orchestra: flutes, oboes, bassoons, and even french horn (the instruments in a woodwind quintet!). And the clarinet projects very well, especially in the clarion and altissimo registers. (The projection issue is probably why, in a band, there are usually twice and many 2nd and 3rd clarinets as there are 1sts - because the written ranges for 2nd and 3rd parts done naturally speak as loudly and those written for 1sts).

Finally, youth orchestras tend to double up in the woodwind section (esp. clarinets and flutes) for a few reasons:
1) high school students who are used to playing in bands don't quite have "projection" under their belts yet - a vital characteristic for orchestra playing. Doubling up helps get the part "out there".
2) to give more students an opportunity to play in an orchestra.
3) there are occasional bass and Eb parts to be covered which can be covered by regular members doubling on these instruments - and doubling is an excellent experience (IMO).

To answer you question "what are we there for?", I would say "To make music!"

Kevin Bowman



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 RE: The Clarinets role in the symphony orchestra
Author: Rick2 
Date:   1999-08-10 04:00

I have to add this only as a humble opinion, however, I will first add that the symphony orchestra is centered around the strings. They are the skeleton of the orchestra. The other instruments are the flesh. If I listen to music written only for strings, it is like eating unflavored oatmeal. I get very tired of it within a few spoonfuls.

The oboe, IMHO, is the light and fanciful woodwind. The (french) horn is the serious member of the group. The bassoon is the same as oboe only inthe lower ranges. The flute is (to me) the throwback instrument but it also compliments well the oboe in playing the light fanciful role with a bit more projection. And the clarinet family? The richness of the tone makes it the backbone of the woodwind section. It also makes it a good selection for the parts with complicated emotion or message. It's kind of the strange cousin that everybody thinks is a little spooky, especially inthe low registers. Even in the high registers, if it'e played right, you get that richness, that nasal tone that speaks the way no other instrument can match.

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 RE: The Clarinets role in the symphony orchestra
Author: Keil 
Date:   1999-08-10 19:30

what is IMHO?

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 RE: The Clarinets role in the symphony orchestra
Author: Mark Charette 
Date:   1999-08-10 20:49

In My Humble Opinon

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 RE: The Clarinets role in the symphony orchestra
Author: Dee 
Date:   1999-08-11 05:09



Mark Charette wrote:
-------------------------------
Keil wrote:
-------------------------------
In the traditional symphony there are only 2 clarinets and maybe 1 bass clarinet!! In youth symphonies there tends to be 4 clarinets and maybe 1 bass clarinet! My question is what exactly is our purpose in the symphony. I understand that from piece to piece our role may change but over all what are we there for? They keep so few woodwinds, it makes me wonder!
--------
The clarinets are easily heard in any orchestra - they seldom get "buried" - and have a good number of solo parts.


-------------------------------

Just wanted to add that the clarinet is loud enough to drown a single violin unless the player is very sensitive to blending. Thus the clarinet can easily be heard over an entire bankd of strings.

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 I've got a question now....
Author: Kontragirl 
Date:   1999-08-11 18:06

Dee wrote:
-------------------------------
Just wanted to add that the clarinet is loud enough to drown a single violin unless the player is very sensitive to blending. Thus the clarinet can easily be heard over an entire band of strings.

I've got a question now...Are there contralto and contrabass clarinets in professional symphony orchestras? If you've got more than one, then you can't hear any of the low strings!!

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 RE: I've got a question now....
Author: Merry 
Date:   1999-08-12 05:14

I played in a small orchestra for a while at uni. After our first performance a friend of mine commented that she heard every note I played despite being grossly outnumbered by strings. That never would have happened at high school despite sitting in the 1st chair.

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