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 Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: ruben 
Date:   2021-10-01 12:33

By chance, I heard the very young Joë Christophe on France-Musique, the French national Classical music radio station. He recently won the Munich competition. France has produced a whole new set of top-flight young clarinetists, but Monsieur Christophe impresses me with his sense of poetry and sensitivity. It's not just power-house technical playing, which is what you so often get these days. Check him out on Youtube. He plays on a very modest, medium-priced Selmer Seles clarinet. The sound he gets from it is pure velvet.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com


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 Re: Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-10-01 15:27

Thank you for bringing Christophe to our attention. He is wonderfully musical. It's hard to get me to sit down and listen through a completer performance of any clarinet piece these days and I sat rather stunned through both his Mozart Concerto and Poulenc Sonata. The audience offers a round of applause after the second movement of the Poulenc.......deservedly so!




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0iRkE1CiXg




BRAVO





.................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2021-10-01 18:54

Christophe is certainly one of the many impressive young contest winners but he does not play an intermediate level Selmer clarinet. He signed an official "Instruments Played" document that states he plays a "Bb/A Privilege" model Selmer--the current top of the line (most expensive) Selmer model. See bottom of page here: https://www.selmer.fr/en/artist/joe-christophe.



Post Edited (2021-10-01 20:08)

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 Re: Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: ruben 
Date:   2021-10-02 01:07

Seabreeze; I stand corrected. It's not the first time and is not likely to be the last.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com


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 Re: Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-10-02 21:50

Joe Christophe's playing brings up an interesting consideration regarding what it means to play musically. Admittedly I try to avoid deeper discussions regarding phrasing and such (tending toward ligatures and mouthpieces instead) because there is SO MUCH subjective quality to the discussion. Just as an example, in another current thread someone mentions a composer that they really admire and another person comes in to say how banal that composer's music really is. Further, in a post some time ago we got advice from a very well respected member of the clarinet playing community which went like this: "Play a tune........tunefully," which got some rave reviews.



So I ask with some trepidation, are there any straight forward "rules" one can garner from Cristophe's playing that can make playing tunefully easier to understand?


I think I hear a use of wide dynamic ranges within a given phrase. I seem to hear higher notes of the phrase played louder, while lower notes are played softer. Or sometimes just that the terminal notes of a phrase are diminished.


Is it non-musical to play the the higher notes of a phrase softer and the lower notes louder? Can you just crescendo through a phrase until you're as loud as possible at the end of a phrase?



What in God's name does "playing a tune tunefully" actually mean? And how is it that only a few people such as Christophe know how to do it well?




....................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2021-10-02 22:50

@rubin: thank you for bringing him to our attention. He's phenomenal!

@seabreeze: I bet you, me and @rubin could all agree that he'd be a force regardless of the otherwise working clarinet put before him. This isn't to say at his level of play that such refinements don't matter; just that they'd only make his play that much more beautiful.

@Paul Aviles: Assuming I even had the acumen to make such determinations regarding musicality I haven't the foggiest idea how to answer your question.

I may know what's bad, even what many like, but like you said, we'll never all agree and maybe that's not a bad thing.

I must admit though, I like how Alexander Bedenko (another clarinetist I love) approached this when teaching a lesson here:

https://youtu.be/xQlm2dwSq-A?t=68

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 Re: Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: brycon 
Date:   2021-10-03 03:48

Quote:

Admittedly I try to avoid deeper discussions regarding phrasing and such (tending toward ligatures and mouthpieces instead) because there is SO MUCH subjective quality to the discussion.


Sure, because there isn't any subjectivity when it comes to equipment... :)

Quote:

So I ask with some trepidation, are there any straight forward "rules" one can garner from Cristophe's playing that can make playing tunefully easier to understand?


There might be some basic things to consider when it comes to expression. C.P.E. Bach's advice to approach instrumental playing like a singer, for instance, or Chopin's suggestion to increase intensity when a musical line ascends. Probably because C.P.E. Bach and Chopin were fine musicians, they kept things very general.

Other sorts of things to consider might be more specific: "Don't play a deceptive cadence the same way as an authentic cadence," for example, or "Press into the dissonance of an appoggiatura and relax into the consonance." But as Artur Schnabel apparently taught, you have to take each piece and even each phrase on its own terms.

Just because "press into the dissonance of an appoggiatura" is an okay "rule" and something you might even teach someone, it doesn't tell you all that much about how to perform a particular appoggiatura and risks reducing musical expression to a set of inflexible and arbitrary rules, contrary to what Schnabel might've wanted.

With the opening of Saint-Saens's sonata, for instance, the appoggiatura from G to F in the first entrance should probably be played a bit differently from the appoggiatura from Bb to A in the second entrance. Perhaps the Bb to A version should have a bit more tension in the sound because scale-degree 4-3 is a more pungent dissonance than 2-1, because it comes secondly, because the voice-leading is rising, etc.

Or with the opening of Schumann's fantasy pieces, the appoggiaturas in m. 2 might be played less affectively and perhaps not pressed very much at all so that they lead into the C to B appoggiatura in m. 3 because C to B echo the half-step motive introduced by the piano, fall on the stronger metrical placement of beat one, are quarter notes rather than eighths, etc.

In short, expression is a constellation of considerations: rhythm, harmony, voice leading, compositional motifs, and so on. And it takes musicians with skilled ears and intellects to make sense of what often amounts to contradictory information.

Quote:

I think I hear a use of wide dynamic ranges within a given phrase. I seem to hear higher notes of the phrase played louder, while lower notes are played softer. Or sometimes just that the terminal notes of a phrase are diminished.


To reinforce my points above, sure, some phrases might warrant wide dynamic ranges. But at the same time, others, such as the "monotone" ending of the Poulenc's first movement, might not. Moreover, piano and forte are colors more than decibel levels (which is why the opening phrase of Brahms's first sonata is marked poco forte). It's entirely possible, then, to play a phrase expressively within a narrow volume range by modulating the color or intensity of the playing (the opening phrase of the second movement of the Brahms, for example, is often played this way, with the intensity leading from the opening F to the D several measures later but the volume staying rather soft).

Quote:

What in God's name does "playing a tune tunefully" actually mean?


It therefore means different things in different circumstances. Good musicianship can't be reduced to a set of easily-graspable precepts, no matter how much you wish it to be so.



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 Re: Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: ruben 
Date:   2021-10-03 11:16

brycon: Thank you. There's much erudition and food for thought in your presentation, as usual. I would simply add that very much is done instinctively without necessarily having much theoretical knowledge. The scholar Charles Rosen, whom we both admire, was disappointing as a pianist: rather dry and unemotional, and not because he lacked technical prowess.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com


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 Re: Joë Christophe- phenomenol talent
Author: brycon 
Date:   2021-10-03 21:31

Quote:

I would simply add that very much is done instinctively without necessarily having much theoretical knowledge.


All very true.

Many expressive decisions occur on a subconscious level. We learn many basic expressive shapes--a taper at the end of a cadence, for instance--by listening to recordings as well as our teachers and colleagues. And an elite-level musician can hear, say, a deceptive cadence, make small changes in his or her oral cavity and core muscles, and alter the tone color without much thought at all because elite-level musicians have strengthened the connections among their minds, ears, and bodies in such a way that the deceptive cadence can happen with not much more effort than it takes to plant your right foot in front of your left when you walk.

Quote:

The scholar Charles Rosen, whom we both admire, was disappointing as a pianist: rather dry and unemotional, and not because he lacked technical prowess.


I don't listen much to Rosen's piano playing (though, in fairness, I find it much more expressive than a lot of "professional" clarinet playing!). But a few years ago, I was at a dinner with Lewis Lockwood, who told me that Charles Rosen was the best performer of the Diabelli variations he'd ever heard. So yeah, everyone likes what they like. Moreover, who am I to argue with Lewis Lockwood!

My friend Ed Klorman, who wrote an absolutely brilliant book on Mozart's chamber music, says that a musical decision made in a rehearsal (e.g. "Hey, I think this section should have a bit more rubato. I want to stretch this high note.") is in fact an an act of analysis not all that different from a theoretical decision made, say, in a voice-leading graph (e.g. "Hey, this high note is the end of the initial ascent and the beginning of the urlinie."). And as someone who comes from a performance and theory background, sure, I too find that my expressive intuition often has some sort of theoretical underpinning, if I sit down and think about it for a moment. For me, then, it's two sides of the same coin rather than two different modes of thinking about music.



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