Saturday, August 4, 2012

Clarinetfest 2012: Introducing the Buffet Divine!

My first look at the Buffet Divine was at the Buffet booth at the 2012 ICA Clarinetfest.  It was displayed under glass, like it was the Hope Diamond at the National Museum.  Buffet is one of the most respected clarinet manufacturers in the world, and their release of a new clarinet is a really big deal.

The Divine was not available to try out until the next day, not until Marc Nuccio, the Principal Clarinet of the New York Philharmonic, showcased it in a small concert at the Buffet reception later that evening.  I couldn't wait to try one out the next day.

Thursday evening we attended the Buffet reception to hear the new clarinet.  Marc Nuccio arrived and it was soon going to be time to hear the new clarinet.  He was dressed in a sleek black italian suit, with a black nike turtleneck, looking every bit the elegant New York musician, and resembling the sleek black lines of the new clarinet he was going to play for us.

He stepped up to the music stand, nodded to the pianist, and launched into a beautiful performance of Chausson's Andante and Allegro.  It sounded wonderful, sleek, smooth, and beautiful, and Mr. Nuccio's performance was sublime.  The thing is, I think that Marc Nuccio playing a hollowed out carrot with a clarinet mouthpiece would sound incredible.  The real test would be to hear how regular people sounded on it, to hear how I would sound playing it.

On Friday, the time had come for me to try out the new Buffet.  It was really exciting to have the opportunity to try a new Buffet that was just introduced.  I tried it.  I cannot give a quite accurate report on the instrument, because I wasn't used to the extra left hand pinkie key -- just like the one on the Tosca, but here are my initial thoughts.  It has a smooth tone, which I noticed while playing scale passages.  The Divine makes all of the notes connect better while also making it easier for the notes not to get muddled.  The sound was very clear and focused.  The instrument was well tuned across all three registers.  Another bonus is that the instrument is significantly lighter in weight than the Tosca, which will be very helpful to those who don't use neck straps.

The last think that struck me was the tone.  The focused sound was beautiful and didn't spread even when I played higher and louder.  It's a great instrument.  I just wish I could afford one!

Clarinetfest 2012: Day Two

Trying out the new Walter Grabner Mouthpiece.  They're fantastic.  I bought one!
On Thursday, the exhibition hall opened up for the first time.  There were clarinets everywhere!  They had every major brand of clarinet that is played in the United States.  There were rows upon rows of Backun barrels and bells, tons of sheet music, Rossi clarinets, Italian clarinets, Backun clarinets, Selmer clarinets, and every Buffet clarinet that is currently being made, mouthpieces, everything!  I was really excited to come back and try the clarinets when I had time, but I had to get to my rehearsal with Dr. Fountain, the pianist who was playing with the high school soloist competitors.

Walter Grabner mouthpieces
Dr. Fountain was really good.  All of his rhythms were perfectly correct (which are very hard in the Martinu) and his tempos were just right.  He was a skinny, red-headed pianist who always has a smile on his face, and he was really good at putting everyone at ease with his friendly manner.  He was a pleasure to work with.

Trying out Rossi clarinets.
However, I ran into a huge problem that morning.  I had brought only one good reed with me to Lincoln!  Don't do that, by the way.  It's a really bad idea.  I had brought other reeds, but none of them would respond for me, and the one I had brought to play had somehow gotten racked.  It SERIOUSLY affected my tone,s moothness and articulation in really very bad ways.  I was now dreading playing for the competition on a cracked reed, and I was almost in a panic!  My mom and I had looked earlier at the clarinet exhibition, but we found no Legere booth there.  They had Rico and VanDoren booths, but no Legere exhibition.  I always use Legere reeds, and now was not the time to make a change.  My mom and I were both surprised at the absence of a Legere booth.  The Legere reeds are gaining in popularity, and I would think that more people would be selling them and that there would be a Legere booth at the ICA clarinet exhibition.

My mom tried calling the Legere dealership in Canada to see where in Nebraska we might be able to get more reeds.  He was incredibly nice and offered to send me as many reeds as I might need overnight.  The problem was, the competition was at 9am the next day, so even Fedex wouldn't be able to get them to us in time.

Trying out Backun barrels.
Luckily, while I was rehearsing with Dr. Fountain, my mom found a booth at the exhibition that did sell Legere reeds.  They must not have been out when we walked through the first time, or more likely, we overlooked them.  So thank you to, Wiener Music for saving me.

Backun barrels -- so pretty!

International Clarinet Association Clarinet Fest 2012: Day One

My mom and I arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska Wednesday evening for Clarinetfest 2012.  By the time we got checked in, registration had closed five minutes early, so we couldn't pick up our registration materials and schedule.  Lincoln is such a tiny city!  It seems more like a suburb than a city.  Wednesday night, we watched a bass clarinet performance by Michael Lowenstern.  It was very interesting.  He used a looper and other fancy tech equipment in his performance.  The most striking thing he used during the performance was a instrument called an EWI.  It is a really crazy electric woodwind instrument.  It is straight like a soprano sax and played in front of the body where it is held on a neck strap.  It makes a really odd electronic sound. I didn't love it, but Mr. Lowenstern played it well.  I found his bass clarinet playing to be a little more to my liking, but he was able to achieve a sound that is very similar to the sound most people would expect from a saxophone.  I think it is exactly what contemporary bass clarinet performance probably should sound like, and he was very good, but I kind of love the more traditional music.  This wasn't my kind of music, but Mr. Lowenstern was very good at it and he had a really nice stage presence.  He was quite funny and enjoyable to watch.  I did like a composition he premiered called "10 Children's Pieces.  I thought the Lullaby movement quite beautiful.