Dienstag, 24. November 2009

Are there still national clarinet schools?

November 24 2009

Dear Clarinet friends

With this letter I will start my clarinet blog about all subjects concerning the


· Release of new pieces

· interesting recordings

· new methods and projects

Last but not least I will also keep you up to date with my own projects. I hope that the blog can motivate clarinetists to interact and give their own input so that it will be an international platform for the profit of a lot of players. I will structure it in the following way:

A: questions and answers

B: new releases

C: comments on questions and open discussions

A: Are there still national clarinet schools?

Let’s start with a overview of the history of the clarinet. We know that the clarinet was invented by Johann Christoph Denner (*August 13th 1655 in Leipzig † 20 th April 1707 in Nuremberg) It was not, however, a completely new invention. Shawm had already existed for a long time all over the whole world and the chalumeau was also already present. Actually it was not a new invention but a development of the instruments that already existed. Nevertheless it was an important step for us! The next step came with Johann Stamitz. His work in Mannheim marked the beginning of the classical era and his clarinet concerto was the next important step for our instrument. We have to consider that he wrote the piece for Gaspard Proksch who played in the orchestra of Jean le Riche de la Pouplinière in Paris. The interaction between Germany and France has been an important subject since the birth of the clarinet. The fruitful work of Mozart, Anton Stadler and the instrument builder Theodor Lotz were all vital for the breakthrough of our instrument.

In The 19th century further developments came at the hand of the great romantic composers (and the outstanding clarinetists H. and C. Baermann and J.S. Hermstedt) in germanspoking countries. Meanwhile in Paris important inventions were made by Müller and Klosé. The German system, named after Oskar Oehler (1858-1936) came much later, as well as did the „English“ clarinet by Eugène Albert (1816–1890). At the beginning of the 20th century the centre for woodwind instruments was in Paris. Here the impressionists and the politics of the Conservatoire superieur began a succesfull century in which the woodwinds were raised to the same level as the string instruments and the piano.

At this point Benny Goodman has to be mentioned. Far removed from the origin of the clarinet Goodman built up a new tradition for our instrument and became the most important clarinet player of the 20th century. He became known as the King of Swing and is still considered one of the greatest jazz-clarinetists . He also influenced the classical field by encouraging important composers to write for clarinet.

One other country should also be mentioned: Italy. There were no world-famous Italian clarinetists in the first half of the 20th century but there was a very good school, which placed emphasis on a round, dolce sound likened to that of the best singers. Edmondo Allegra for instance played the first performance of “L’histoire du soldat” by Strawinsky.

During the 20th century two forms of the instruments developed a very strong position: the French clarinet represented by the enterprise which became established already in 1825 Buffet Crampon and in Germany the German system represented by Uebel and Wurlitzer.The German Oehler-Clarinet was concentrated mostly in Germany and Austria and the French clarinetcame to dominate the rest of the world.

After decades of a semi-monopoly of the clarinet market by Buffet and Wurlitzer, around the turn of the century the market suddenly exploded. Interesting new clarinet manufacturers sprung up all over the world. Some of the most important being: Selmer, Seggelcke, Rossi, Leblanc. Naturally Buffet and Wurlitzer still remained on the market.

It is interesting to noice, that there isn’t a strict separation anymore between the narrow bore of the German system and the wider bore of French clarinets. A lot of Boehm clarinets come closer to the German bore, similar to that of the Dutch-Clarinet. The sound is obviously not influenced by the key mechanism but by the bore, the mouthpiece, the reeds and of course our method of playing.

In the 20th century the quality of the clarinet players increased a lot. This development began in Paris and then developed further with Benny Goodman and Personalities like Karl Leister, Hans Rudolf Stalder, Gervase de Peyer, Stanley Drucker, Robert Marcellus, Giuseppe Garbarino, resulting in a significant raising of the world-wide standard of clarinet playing. Today the standard of playing is almost similar to that of string-players and pianists and good players can be found world-wide.

And what about national schools? This is a difficult question because it is not possible to make a a clear definition of how a German or French clarinetist for instance sounds. In todays international environment it is essentially impossible to recognize what school a player comes from. There are certain tendancies, but they aren’t clear and fortunately there are no particular walls and borders. At the moment there are a lot of personalites who have an individual style of playing, which is charaterised through their sound and the way of playing. Generally a young clarinetist doesn’t hear and get to no just one clarinetist.

He or she can listen to different players and take lessons over the whole world.

They have the unique opportunity of being able to try to find their own method of playing.

I think in general that there are three main tendances today:

1. There are no strict national borders any more. This is due to political changes and the ability to travel more.

2. There is a tendancy towards a more homogenous clarinet sound.

3. Because we can feel freer of traditions, we have a huge opportunity to

find our own personal way of playing – and to hear a wide range of individual styles.

Being Swiss I am very familiar with this situation. Switzerland is a very small country but one in which a good clarinet school has developed over years.This school was lead by Hans Rudolf Stalder and Thomas Friedli and due to interactions with Gemany, France and Italy we were able to develop our own individual style .

The future promises to be very interesting. There are good clarinettists all over the whole world. New, interesting instruments are being built incorporating new concepts in addition to moves to maintain strong traditions and to rediscover the quality of older Instruments. One thing remains clear: The perfect clarinet doesn’t exist (In the same way a perfect life doesn’t exist) but the clarinet world is full of interest both in terms of playing and listening

B: new releases

· My friend and world-renown composer Daniel Schnyder (Switzerland/USA) just

finished his lates compostion for the clarinet, a concerto, Matrix 21 that will be premiered by Eddie Daniels in January in Lausanne (Switzerland). He has already composed a number of compositions for clarinet, such as a sonata with Piano and a concerto with wind-band (for Allan Kay and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra) More information available at: <http://www.danielschnyder.com>

· I have just received an interesting clarinet solo piece from a Taiwanese-American composer

Shih-Hui Chen „twice removed“ (Subito Music Corporation). It is around 8’ and is also suitable for advanced pupils.

My own new releases:

· In November 2009 two new CDs released on the label neos. On CD

„virtuoso“ encorporates a DVD with video-clips of my 6 clarinet etudes and Stockhausen’s „Der kleine Harlekin“. In addition to my recording of my clarinet-concerto with strings. On CD “concerto” is the first recording of the Clarinet Concerto by Boris Tschaikowsky and my orchestration of “Petite Pièce” by Claude Debussy. https://neos-music.com/

· My six Etudes de Concert (jumping around, perpetuum, plaine ondulée,

Vals all’appogiatura, hommage, barnbaro) release in February 2009. (Edition Musik Hug)

C: Comments on questions and open discussion

I’m looking forward to all your comments and suggestions.