Clarinet Tone Talk: Rossini Introduction opening, two samples

I wish you all a Happy New Year. After a harried holiday season, I look forward to getting back to a routine of sorts. That includes posting regularly on Mondays and Thursdays.

This week's Clarinet Tone Talk features samples of two great clarinetists playing the opening of Rossini's Introduction, Theme and Variations.

Sample 1-

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Sample 2-

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I prefer the second sample, which has a more intimate tone which seems to come from the inside and shine, even in the louder passages. The first sample is a bit uneven in tone quality, meaning some notes are different shapes and colors than others.

As usual, I enjoy your responses if you care to share your take.

I will post the players next week.

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13 comments for “Clarinet Tone Talk: Rossini Introduction opening, two samples

  1. January 9, 2011 at

    I an not in either if your leagues but I had the opportunity to try out a Buffet Festival, Leblanc Opus, Selmer Sig, Selmer St Louis, New R 13, older R13 and pro Leblanc. I was surprised that I really like the R 13 and pro Lelbancs the best. So then I had my professional “ear” turn his back (Marc) and he heard minimal difference between my 200 dollar Yamaha 34 and these high end horns. So, I left 3K richer. K

    • January 9, 2011 at

      Interesting, and not surprising. The law of diminishing returns says you pay exponentially more for a slight different beyond a certain point. When you are an orchestral pro or soloist, a 5-10% difference is all the difference in the world. Not to you because you don’t need it.

      • January 12, 2011 at

        Good Point David. The race is often won with just a little more horsepower. K

  2. John Peacock
    January 7, 2011 at

    Happy New Year to you too David. No doubt ideas of sound can be influenced by early experiences, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. For example, I always used to dislike the oboe as an instrument, and I would now say that this was because the dominant UK school of oboe playing used to be a very direct, almost raucous sound (e.g. the playing of Terence MacDonagh that sadly disfigures Brymer’s otherwise lovely set of Mozart wind music). Only when I’d been playing clarinet for quite a few years did I discover the Berlin oboe sound and fall in love with it. Happily, this is how most Brits seem to play these days.

    With clarinet sound in particular, I grew up at a time when there was Brymer on 1010s but also Buffet players like Pay or McCaw. So in my case wishing I could sound like Brymer wasn’t just down to the lack of competing alternatives.

    But you do wonder if memory plays tricks. I grew up thinking of Brymer and de Peyer as two equal greats, and yet every time in recent years I heard a de Peyer CD, I thought it sounded dreadful. I’d decided that maybe my young ears were less discerning, or that my student radio must have had a poor treble, which made de Peyer’s sound appear more beautiful than it really was. Clearly, if your ideal sound is one that no-one makes in reality, you are heading for a lot of disappointment. But just yesterday I got a delayed Christmas present, which was a concerto CD that de Peyer cut around 1960: Mozart, Weber 2 and Spohr 1. The sound is fabulous, and much as I remembered it, although I can’t have heard these recordings for over 30 years. So that reassured me that some fundamentals of good sound (uniformity and control) are universal qualities that can be picked out by ears both young or old, naive or experienced. The de Peyer of 1960 is as good as ever (do hear it if you can), and it’s just that he went off with age.

    That said, your ideal can evolve as you hear more ways of playing. But I don’t think you change your relative opinions all that much. So today I wouldn’t say I wished to play exactly like Brymer – but I continue to think he is closer to ideal than (say) Michael Collins or Thea King. As you rightly put it, a good sound is “limpid”, but I find players like Collins & King simply can’t make it: they’re fantastic with punchy articulation, but this aspect of technique must come after the basic of being able to produce a smooth liquid legato – otherwise you’re running before you can walk.

    • January 9, 2011 at

      John, a pleasure to read your comments as always. I just bought (still on trial) a set of Buffet Toscas, which have a slightly different sound than an R13. The jury is still out, though I like their shimmering density of sound, not small, but perhaps more focused than R13, and a bit more “introverted”. Perhaps I’ll put up a tone test tomorrow comparing R13 to Tosca.

  3. John Peacock
    January 6, 2011 at

    Oh dear: sorry to start the year by disagreeing. I prefer number 1. It’s a more brilliant sound, which I don’t mean as a synonym for bright i.e. on the thin side: it’s a full-bodied tone, but with a feeling that each note sings out. Number 2 sounds restricted by comparison – as if they couldn’t play much louder without the sound quality degenerating. I wouldn’t describe no. 2’s sound as “sweeter”: “duller” is more like it. Also, to my ears no 2 is on several occasions tending to be just a hair under pitch.

    • January 6, 2011 at

      Ahh John. Happy New Year. Nothing like a little contrast to perk up the conversation. As usual, you are on the mark in your descriptions and comments. I fear that I am personally heading in the direction of darkness (dullness), but rest assured that your comments are always taken very, very seriously. I keep your ideas in mind when choosing equipment, for example. Isn’t it funny how we yearn for a sound we consider ideal, perhaps formed very early in our clarinetist life? I still look for what I called “syrupy” “limpid” “caramel” in sound, not that anyone has played that way, but it’s what has formed in my “ideal” imagination, as we all do when conceiving our ideal sound.

  4. January 4, 2011 at

    Okay,I relistened and number 2 is rounder and sweeter. But I do like “different” more than one in the pack. K

  5. January 4, 2011 at

    I’ll fight the crowd. Number one had the most character to me and #2 turned me off in a hurry as just another symphony clarinetist. Since I may very well explore amplified clarinet in the future I’m probably the black sheep. K

  6. January 4, 2011 at

    Thanks for your comments. You all have good taste in tone!

  7. January 3, 2011 at

    I do favor the tone of #2 much more, but I really appreciate the playfulness of clarinetist #1. It’ll be interesting to see who they are.

  8. January 3, 2011 at

    I also favor #2.
    The phrasing attracts me the most. Also, I like where he breathes in the final phrases that we can hear. There is also just a touch of vibrating or spinning of the tone.
    I am going out on a limb and guessing it is Martin Frost. We shall see if my ear is intact.

  9. January 3, 2011 at

    I like the second one better too. It’s rounder and has a ring to it. The first one sounds much more “flat,” not half as fun to listen to.

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