Steve Hartman

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The interview with Steve Hartman, Principal Clarinet of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, the Opera Orchestra of New York, Acting Principal Clarinet of the New York City Opera and Principal Clarinet of the New York Scandia Symphony, orchestral soloist and chamber musician was held the 8th of June 2019 in New York and has been edited by Heinrich Mätzener.

Sound quality and the essence of Music

HM: Which requirements, would you say, a clarinetist should meet with his sound quality?

SH: The essence of this, you know, it’s all about the musicality, the ears, rhythm, that’s what is really important. Ultimately, you know, a good sound all by itself, it’s completely boring!
HM: I agree.

SH: No direction, no shape in the phrasing, this is just - so what? When it’s in tune, that’s great! Nice, that’s great to play and blend with other instruments, but you when have a solo, do something!

I mean vibrato is illegal on the clarinet, right? This is internationally forbidden; Interpol comes and arrests you if you play with vibrato. However, do you know anything about baseball?

HM: A littel...

The idea of shape, of saying, of phrasing

SH: In baseball, if a pitcher throws a nice, really fast, straight fast ball, it’s going to be hit, no matter how fast it is, it has to have some movement, it has to do something. The sound has to have some movement, so it’ll have direction in terms of dynamic, or a little of this, a little of that, you know what I mean?
The only time that you play a flat line is when it says “senza espressione” and then you purposely go (daa, imitates in sound), you know, play like a machine, and then you go back to normal. As far as the tone, it’s what pleases your ear and what pleases other people’s ears. Then again, you could have someone who would play with a non-pleasing tone and would be very successful. As performers, as virtuosos, as whatever, they have something fantastic about their playing.
They have the gift of grabbing the audience’s attention and holding it. That’s phenomenal! Nobody can teach that! There is no way to quantify, to verbalize what they do that has that effect. You can hear the most flawless player with a beautiful sound and perfect intonation and rhythm...but somehow you are missing something.

HM: A clarinetist should have technical possibilities that enables him to move with the sound, to do something with the sound.

SH: For sure! Hopefully, you start with a basic concept of evenness, or equalizing notes, so you can play a line. The way I look at it is that the purpose of evenness, is that you “call the shots” (an expression of billiard playing). If you have a series of notes and let’s say there’s no meter: it’s just 12 notes in some kind of order, then, the composer hasn’t told you what he wants you to do in terms of emphasis, unless it’s says “senza espressione”. For 12 equal notes, you decide where it goes and where it comes back from. Obviously, if there’s meter that’s a pretty good clue to start with. And the idea of saying: if you have the Stravinsky Three Pieces or something like that, he wants you to play a 2/4 bar like a 2/4 bar. a 3/8 like a 3/8. There’s a reason for it, and so the meter dictates the shape, the phrasing. Every time he writes that, he means something, because otherwise, why would he bother?

In the tradition of Robert Marcellus?

HM: I took some lessons with Robert Marcellus.[1] [2]

SH: No kidding, I never met him!

HM. It was very impressive. Unfortunately, Robert Marcellus has gone blind. He could tell me without seeing: “I think you should change the position of your tongue, to get a more focused sound, to get a clear staccato.” He could make the connection between the sound he heard and the specific way a student produced that sound. He trained me before I made the audition in the Zurich Opera and really helped me to be successful there. Later, Ramon Wodkowski told me, that young students today were mainly looking for a big, dark sound. There is a fear of being too bright.
Would you say that today, there does exist is a typical American clarinet sound?

SH: You know, I don’t hear that many players, to be honest with you. We had an audition at the ballet recently, for second clarinet and bass clarinet. I don’t know what to say. There was a period of time where there were really rough sounds out there. A lot of them ironically were sort of Marcellus students, or at least thinking they were of Marcellus’ school. But they misunderstood his playing. His sound had a tremendous ring but he could also blend. What they picked up is the ability to blend. They picked up the dark, without the ring and without the center. So, a lot of players play admiring the great dark sound. The thing about the Cleveland orchestra that was groundbreaking is how well in tune they played and how well they blended. But Marcellus also had a great sound, and he was a great clarinetist and musician. I never thought of him as an expressive player or as singer on the instrument, but certainly, he had a very good sound. It’s easy to understand why he was a model for so many players.

Play with the intensity of the different registers

SH: Often, the high register doesn’t sound like a high register. It sounds so smooth and dark, but you’re a clarinet, not a piccolo. The high register is supposed to sound like a tenor going for high notes, not a soprano in the same octave. There is supposed to be an intensity to the register. Obviously, a high C on a tenor voice is not a high C on a soprano but it’s thrilling to hear, because of what’s happening inside to get there. If it sounds too easy in the high registers, you lose the whole effect.

HM: Today, the pressure to which young people are exposed to get a job, the pressure before and during the auditions is very high. Nobody wants to risk having only a little bit of sharpness or edge in his sound. Evenness of sound through all registers gets high priority.

Musical education or training for tests?

SH: Yes. I think all of that has to do with the fact that it’s all auditions now. Musical education is not music school, it’s audition school. It’s being trained to play a good audition. It’s not about ensemble, it’s not about expressivity, about styles of music, it’s about accuracy and winning and good pitch, non-aggressive and inoffensive sound or tone quality. One of the ways to be good is to not be bad! I mean in the sense that you have to have the least offensive sound, the least undesirable sound, so blend and lack of anything bad is considered good. And it is! Let’s face it: not bad is better than bad. Still, there are many very well-trained and well-rounded musicians coming out of conservatories these days.

HM: And maybe control of the nerves also. That may be the positive side, that also in the schools of music Timothy Gallwey’s [3] ideas seem to be standard in the curricula (see his book The inner game of tennis, 2015). But there must be a foundation of musical formation.

SH: People who win auditions and have no experience of playing in an orchestra might catch on, but following a conductor is not something so easy to teach. You have to play with lots of conductors every kind of music, opera, concerts, ballet, Broadway shows, so you understand how to anticipate, how to follow, how to lead, when to lead, when to stay away. Also, you might win in an audition with a certain sound, but it might not work in your orchestra, whatever the context is in terms of the other sounds and the acoustics as well. You might have a brilliant technique, but when the sound is too dark is not enough projection. You may have amazing high registers, flute-like, not a typical clarinet high register, and that can be kind of cool, but I think you can go too far.

HM: Do you think it’s more a concept of playing heavier reeds with more strength in the embouchure, and maybe less a concept that pays attention to a specifically voicing of the different registers?

SH: I honestly don’t know. I think it’s a concept of sound and, I can’t speak for other people.

Steve Hartman’s teachers

HM: Can you tell me about your teachers and your study years?

SH: I remember, my first teacher, Earl O. Bates , in elementary school. I guess I played double lip and he switched me to single lip. He said no, no, don’t play that way. And I remember the vibration of the mouthpiece feeling weird for a couple of days.
When I first started, my school music teacher played the piano and my mom chose the clarinet for me. My teacher in school thought I should take private lessons but my parents couldn’t afford the $6 US that Earl O. Bates s charged for the 45 minute lesson. He agreed to teach me for $4 for ½ hour but he scheduled 45 min. When I was in the 6th grade, he asked my mom to drive me and he would have me “practice” with him for an extra ½ hour on Wednesday for no charge. Then, in 1963 Mr. Bates went to Indiana University, where he taught until he passed away in 1990. I’ve always regretted that I never thanked him personally for his extraordinary generosity. I guess I was too young but I’m sure my parents did thank him. My next teacher was Charles R. Hoffer. He was a very good player, he played double lip, wrote a book on music education in the secondary schools, which became a widely used textbook. He studied with Keith Stein [1] at Michigan State University. Keith Stein brought in an Italian clarinetist named Josef Siniscalchi from Chicago one day per week and gave him his best students. One of them was Charles Hoffer. Dr. Hoffer played double lip but didn’t convert me to playing double lip. After my Junior year of high school, he was hired to be Professor of Music Education at Indiana University.
In my senior year of high school my teacher was Les Scott, who had been the bass clarinetist of the St. Louis Symphony and was an extraordinary saxophonist and flutist as well. A few years later he moved to New York and had a great career as a recording and Broadway musician. He gave me the idea that I might consider going to the East Coast for school. I travelled to New York to audition for Juilliard. The night before the audition I was more worried about how to get there on the subway… not than the audition itself. I also auditioned for Indiana; they had a fantastic faculty, a great school of music but Mr. Bates was out of town that day, so I never saw him again.
My first teacher in Juilliard was Bernard Portnoy, a Daniel Bonade student, who also ended up going to teach at, of all places, Indiana.
Then I was student of Augustin Duquès. Augustin 'Gus' Duquès was my teacher in Juilliard from 1968 to 1972. He was born in Toulouse, France in 1899 and died in New York in the summer of 1972. He won first prizes at the Paris Conservatory in 1917 in Clarinet (the solo work that year was the Messager 'Solo de Concours') and in Solfège. He could solfège faster than any of his students could play! He was a wonderfully charming man and a very fine musician. Teachers of the other woodwind instruments at Juilliard when I was there felt that his students played the most musically of the clarinet students at that time. He played the world premieres of the Trio version of Stravinsky's l’Histoire du Soldat and the Poulenc Duo, among many others. When he was a student, he once played the Debussy 'Premiere Rapsodie' in the presence of the composer! He was brought to New York by Walter Damrosch to play Principal Clarinet with the New York Symphony, before it merged with the New York Philharmonic to become the Philharmonic-Symphony of New York. He began teaching at the Institute of Musical Art in 1923, before it merged with the Juilliard Graduate School to become the Juilliard School of Music. At some point, he left the faculty, to return in the late forties or early fifties. His playing career was illustrious. In addition to the New York Symphony, he played in theaters and was on the staff of NBC from 1931 and principal clarinetist of the NBC Symphony under Toscanini from 1937 to 1949, when he left to join the WOR Symphony under Alfred Wallenstein. He opened the famed Radio City Music Hall in 1932 (or '33) and married one of the original Rockettes. He was a member of the Goldman Band for nearly fifty years. He recorded the Mozart Quintet, but I don't believe that he ever recorded the Concerto.

HM: You have met so many clarinet personalities, so you really must have an overview of the history of clarinet playing in the USA. Were you also student of Kalmen Opperman?

Studies with Kalmen Opperman

SH: I first heard of Kal when I was in a music camp at the University of Kansas when I was 16. One of the other students was talking about reed making and Kal had written a book on single reeds [4]. He was quite famous for that, did a lot of clinics. He didn’t just write a book, he could actually make a reed that would play in a matter of minutes, very short time with just a knife. He would do it in a masterclass, that kind of situations. He would take a blank and make a reed as he was talking to the audience, just slap it on his mouthpiece and play.

Handmade reeds

SH: I called him and I said whom I had studied with in St Louis, and that I had heard that he sold handmade reeds: He said: ”I don’t do that anymore, but I’d be happy to teach you how to make them” So, I went for one lesson and that was very interesting: he wasn’t just a talker.
He could back-up what he said with what he did. His training was unconventional in that he didn’t go to a college or conservatory since there was this big war happening. He enlisted in the US Army before his 18th birthday, in 1937, and served most of the war in the West Point Band. Anyway, I brought my book and had this knife which I didn’t know how to sharpen. It was really quite an amazing experience. We’d work on making primary cuts and all the basic elements of reeds making. I made some reeds and couldn’t really play on them. Kal took my reed and he played, and wow!! I thought it was my reed! I realized that my problem was not my reeds but the fact that I couldn’t play the clarinet! So what if I am in Juilliard? That doesn’t mean anything! This guy can play the clarinet.

HM: Did Kalmen Opperman use Dutch rush or only his very own knives to adjust reeds?

SH: No, he didn’t use Dutch rush very much. He knew how to use it but he was very skilled with the knife. If he would make a reed, he might use a file, but he could do it all with the knife. He was incredibly skilled at sharpening his reed knife. He learned from his father, who sharpened all sorts of unusually shaped scalpels for surgeons.

Principles of teaching

Studying needs a competitive environment

SH. I had good teachers, my first teacher was principal of the St. Louis Symphony. (54.25) My second and third teacher were very good teachers, but what I didn’t have when I was young was a competitive environment. Some other people that I know, who grew up in the New York area and went to Juilliard pre-college, and they had other people, their class-mates, a year or two older or younger and they heard how these kids played. Wow! I didn’t have that as a kid. I just had a little talent, you know, then I managed to get into Juilliard and somehow still I managed to be able to support myself and a family almost entirely by playing the clarinet. I’m very lucky: (laughs) what else can I say? I've almost had to do nothing else for a living except a little teaching. I drove a taxi one summer. There were no air-conditioned cabs in 1970 and I drove during the day when I thought it was less dangerous. I thought I could practice from 4:00 in the afternoon, which I did, but I couldn’t stay up very late. It was exhausting!

HM: What seems difficult to me when playing with double lip embouchure is just the high C.

SH: Well, you know, that’s a very interesting thing, because this is something that I can say I have learned about teaching or being a student. It’s possible to overdo anything that one is taught. Because the thumb C is a problem when first switching to double-lip, one is told to lighten the pressure with the left thumb so as not to hurt the upper lip. I learned that lesson well and many years later I realized that I was squeaking on high E’s not because of my reed or embouchure but because my left thumb was too light on the tone hole and it was allowing a leak!
The truth of the matter is any time you’re giving an instructions, it should come with a qualification that this is important, but has to be done in moderation, in balance with other factors.

Double lip embouchure

Searching for flexibility and a more focused, singing sound

SH: You see, I wanted to be able to sing on the instrument, I wanted to be more organic and I felt when I played single lip that the sound was not bad, but I wanted something better. My first teacher, Earl Bates, was a Bonade student. He studied at Curtis, he had a very focused sound, so hearing him, I heard what I wanted in my sound.
Sometimes I was very dissatisfied with my sound, I thought it was spread and unfocused. I remember saying to another teacher, “I sound like hell.” (I didn’t want to say “shit,” I was too respectful at that time). So later on in the lesson he demonstrated something for me, and I realized that I didn’t sound so bad.
When I was in school at Juilliard, there was a wonderful man, named Joseph Allard. You know Joseph Allard?

HM: Yes, I read about him and about his teaching [2].

SH: He was best-known as a saxophonist and bass clarinetist but he was quite a fine clarinet player. He was friendly to all the clarinet students at Juilliard and used to talk about Ralph McLane[5], who had been principal clarinet of the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1940s. I heard some of his recordings and really liked that sound.

The tradition of double lip embouchure in USA

HM: McLane [6] was, with his the beautiful clarinet sound that was praised far and wide, representative of the Old French School…

SH: But he was American. He was definitely born in the Boston area. Joe, I don’t think he came from Canada, I think he was from Massachusetts also.

HM: As Joe Allard, Ralph McLane was a student of Gaston Hamelin [7]

SH: …who went back to France, after he played with Boston Symphony. Ralph McLane followed him to France, studied with him, and became legendary not only because the way he played but because he died young, at forty-three. He had cancer and (1.04.16) would have had a much greater influence on American clarinet playing if he had lived longer.

HM: Was Joe Allard a student of Ralph McLane?

SH: No, but he talked about him all the time, because he knew him and met him.

HM: Kalmen Opperman was a double lip player… SH: I think he started that way. He always played double lip, he never changed. A lot of very good players were double lip players. And a lot of Italians too: do you know who Gino Cioffi [8] was?

HM: Was he a double lip player too?

SH: Yes. And he was a phenomenal virtuoso. In Italy he started out with the reed on top. When he came to this country, Augustin Duquès said to him: ”You’ll never get any work if you play that way!” You know, he was principal at the Met Opera, and then in the Cleveland Orchestra and in the Boston Symphony.
When Kal Opperman was in the army, he was up in West Point in the band. On the radio a lot of orchestras gave concerts weekly. One of them was the WOR Sinfonietta. Kal heard this, this sound, and he somehow contacted him on the phone. He said “Mr. McLane, I heard you on the radio, I’d love to play like you. May I have a lesson?” McLane said: “I don’t teach”, so Kal said: “I make reeds”. McLane said “What are you doing Saturday?(laughs)“ Because Kal said he made reeds, McLane invited him over. And he said McLane liked the green pieces of cane the best, I mean greener than what we’re used to. they would sit for 4 hours and play. They would practice together and McLane would sometimes sit in a closet and would play different reeds, different mouthpieces and Kal would listen. He had also studied with Simeon Bellison, who was not a double lip player. He was a Russian.

HM: He wrote a lot of arrangements for clarinet choir.

SH: Yes, Bellison did, arrangements, editions, led a huge clarinet choir, with a lot of great players. Kalman Bloch [9] was in there. He played double lip when he was in the high school and he switched to single lip when he went to L.A. David Weber, played in Bellison’s choir, too.

HM: David Weber was an important professor.

SH: Yes: he played double lip, but most of his students don’t. He grew up in Detroit. Roy Schmidt, who had been a clarinetist in the Sousa Band, was David Weber’s teacher in Detroit. Schmidt had a legendary, beautiful sound. Kalman Bloch played double lip when he was young and was concertmaster of the Bellison choir and was said to have had the most beautiful sound.
Louis de Santis [10] Have you heard of him?

HM: Yes, same generation as Daniel Bonade, who was born in 1894. There is a good article by Russell Harlow on clarinet central.

SH: And Augustin Duquès was born in 1899.

HM: Was he student of Prosper Mimart in Paris?

SH: Yes.

HM: So, he had the same teacher as Daniel Bonade. But Bonade changed though to single lip, because because his teeth were very long.

SH: Yes, because of his big overbite, and he was very tall, Gus was very short, as was Kal.

The advantages and difficulties of double lip embouchure

HM: Let me make the connection to the old French School concerning the embouchure and come back to Ralph McLane. He wrote an article in the clarinet (1950) about double lip embouchure [11]. He enumerates the advantages of double lip playing, such as: "Drawing the upper lip down over the teeth opens the oral chamber, or sound box resonator, which produces a free, fuller, and more mellow tone. Different shadings of tone are made with greater ease."

SH: I think it definitely opens the oral cavity more.

HM: I think that’s what makes the sound more singing.

SH: I don’t know, I think so. But you know, there are a lot of very good single lip players these days, and they have a good sound and they have flexibility. So, I don’t know…

HM: Sure!

SH: Why I did it, it was probably a very impractical thing to do: because you know, playing single lip, you have a certain security in the hands, with the teeth anchoring the mouthpiece, and then all of a sudden you have your lip on the mouthpiece, and if you try to have that security, it kills your upper lip at first! And I’ve never been one for using cigarette paper or any artificial materials to protect my lip. I figure if my lip is sore, I’d better take a break or else change the reed.

Creating the minimal, but necessary pressure against the reed

HM: When you create the certain little pressure in the embouchure, I think it is necessary to let the reed vibrate, do you use your right thumb to push the instrument a little bit upwards, against the embouchure?

SH: A little bit.

HM: To find the embouchure line, it’s at the point when the reed begins to open.

SH: I think the lower lip pressure is going forward. The position of the embouchure line has to be in balance with the strength of the reed the facing of the mouthpiece. You know, when you’re too high on the reed and when you’re too low on the reed: if you are just straight up on the reed, you would choke it off. If you take too much mouthpiece, you are going to squeak. And of course, the natural tendency as you get tired is to let the mouthpiece slip out of your mouth.

HM: I think the embouchure line also depends on the register and the dynamic you are playing.

SH: It’s good to be able to move, it’s good to be flexible. Sometimes you want to raise your head, to raise the bell. Sometimes you want to rest [the clarinet] on your knees. But if you’re shorter than we are - the ideal height, is to be a little shorter - so you can rest your instrument on your knee, like Kal, Gus, Stanley, Dave Weber, these guys are all little bit shorter, not Bonade, he was tall.

Double lip and voicing

HM: What happens inside the mouth while sound production?

SH: Well, I’ve only recently learned that my throat can be more open, I mean the back of the mouth can be more “O” instead of “I” or "ee". As long as the focus of the embouchure is here, formed by your lips and by your tongue in the front of the mouth – obviously, if you don’t have a mouthpiece that wants to be horrendously rough, that sounds like sandpaper. I always thought that the back of my tongue has to be high in the mouth. But you can have a focused sound and have at the same time some openness and flexibility in the throat too.

Comparison with playing the flute...

SH: You know who Julius Baker was? A famous flutist. Flute players play with double lip embouchure, they just don’t have a reed. Julius Baker had the most focused sound, when you heard him, you could just tell how his embouchure, you know the hole of the lips that he had developed such a precise focus there.

HM: With his lips?SH: With the two lips, he focused the air so clearly (1.30.14) he had such a centered sound. But it was not bright, also, he had a very warm sound. I played two chamber music concerts with him. Once, when he was 78, the rest of us around 40, we had to tell him how great he sounded. He said: “you should have heard me when I was 77!”

…and whistling

SH: Just how focused that sound was, like he was whistling.

HM: The tongue should never be too far back in the mouth; when it stays near the reed, near the embouchure, the air gets focused.

SH: I don’t know, I’m not a whistler. But I’m not sure how much (he whistles). [Moving the tongue] changes the pitch; you can move your tongue back and still whistle with the front of your lips.

HM: It changes the pitch. For high pitch, I think the tongue must stay near the reed and near the palate. And for lower pitch, the tip of the tongue comes down.

SH: The thing is, I just recently became aware of the fact that I can play with a more open throat. I never thought I could because every time I tried to do that, I would also loosen my lower lip. This goes back to when I was in high school. I wanted to be able to play with more open sound. I played in a concert which got recorded and I heard it and I thought: “Oh that sounds like sh…!” The sound was so spread because I did not only open the throat, but I also opened my embouchure. I lost all control of my sound. But now I realize that your focus is just like on the flute, it is right here [in the embouchure, formed by the lips] and that it’s better to have a relaxed throat than to be tight there. I still play with a lot of tension in my neck, especially if I use the neck strap. I’ve just started to work on it now! Because I learned to have a certain tightness in the throat to get a focused sound. It was at least a try, at least creating some intensity in the sound. I didn’t like rough, I didn’t like unfocused, but I didn’t know how to make it smooth.
If you open your throat and keep your embouchure firm, you actually can sound better.

Playing eb-clarinet

SH: When I first got the job at New York City Ballet, it was as associate principal and E-Flat and I hadn’t played much E-flat up into that point. The only instrument I owned was a used Selmer, which was useful for Broadway show, but for any orchestra it was really not adequate. My colleague at the ballet, Gerhardt Koch, happened to be speaking to a man named Wallace Shapiro who had been a student of Augustin Duquès. Wally said: “you know, I have an E-flat clarinet, that Gus brought from Paris in the 1950.” So I bought this instrument from him, which was fun to play, but so out of tune. It was really not for a modern mouthpiece. This was late 80, not even now!

Adapt the mouthpiece and barrel to the instrument

SH: So, I asked Kal to make a barrel for this. He took it “under his wings” and he made a great barrel, but he also did a lot of things on the inside, which I don’t know what he did but he really improved it. Everybody thinks the most important thing with E-flat is to play loud flashy, but to me the most important is to be able to play soft and in tune.

HM. And to have a good response in the piano.

SH. Yes. I‘ve got a modern E-flat clarinet, which I don’t like as much as the old one. It’s not as fun to play. The only thing about it is that the intonation in the first two registers is much better than the old one was, but not in the top. I mean the high E wants to be flat. It’s an RC prestige.

HM: The high E is flat, and the D is very sharp, yes, I know! It depends from the bore of the mouthpiece and the barrel. Also, the volume of the mouthpiece chamber has an important influence on the intonation. Andreas Schoeni[12] in Bern wrote a study on these parameters.


HM: If we go more inside the body, breathing and support, how did you work on this with your teachers?

SH: Not really, we didn’t talk about that. I don’t think I have a large lung capacity and I used to be able to hold a note for a long time: I can’t anymore. I just played until I ran out of breath. Now I have to breathe sometimes earlier than I want to so that I still can go to the end of the phrase instead of running out of air... I have to strategize. Most of the time it doesn’t make a difference, because you are surrounded by harmonies and so.

Mouthpiece and reeds

SH: I played on Kal’s mouthpieces for forty-three years (the last on he made for me was in 1999). I stopped using it in 2013. I don’t like to try mouthpieces, I hate trying reeds, but that I have to. Now I’m playing a Vandoren M 30D. I’m not exactly sure what it is but the M 30D is for the German system. So, and interestingly, part of Kal’s fundamental concept of a mouthpiece was coming from an early teacher, a German and he learnt to make German mouthpieces first before he made French mouthpieces.

HM: But can you play French reeds on the M 30D?

SH: Yes, but I use the 56 rue Lepic, because it’s a little bit narrower than the regular 4.

Ligature or string?

SH: Ironically, I also used a string for thirty years. One day Kal told me: ”I think that reed would be better with a string. [I asked:] ”What string? What are you talking about?” So he gave me a string and taught me how to tie it and I used those ligatures for 30 years. This is how much I like to change equipment! Now that I play on a M30 D, which is designed for use with a string, string doesn’t work well with this, because when I played on a smooth mouthpiece, he would put a groove at here the top so the string wouldn’t slip. Then I could untie it and take it off quickly. This thing, the string is caught in the groove. It’s not helpful at all.

HM: (2.19.20) one can do too much in searching material, changing reeds, ligatures, but I think this Silverstone ligature works very well for E-flat. It’s so much easier.

SH: The reason I stop using the string and switched to a ligature had nothing to do with anything, except practicality. I needed to go from the pit to the stage in only a 3-minute pause and wouldn’t have time to change or adjust my reed if I didn’t use a metal ligature.

Finger technique

Position of the thumb rest

HM: Did you change your thumb rest?

SH: Yes, this is from Yamaha. I was using a neck strap for a few years so I needed a hole for the hook. This Buffet came with a wider thumb rest. Didn’t have a cork on it and I found it very comfortable. Just on the metal. But this one, I don’t like it that way and I don’t like the cork that’s on it. I wanted to get it a little higher, but this is the highest I can get it now. I’ll see wether we can put some different cushioning on the thumb rest or even cut off some of this rubber, just to put it a little bit higher. Apropos your question about thumb rest in your questionnaire, how does the thumb rest, affect the right-hand position. Of course if it’s too low, the distance to the side keys will be different. And if it’s too high, it might be hard, depending on the size of your fingers to reach the bottom keys.


SH: Where do I tongue? Generally, not quite at the very tip of the reed, and not with the very tip of the tongue. For certain things like the repeated fast B in first movement (vivace ma non troppo) of the Scottish Symphony by Mendelssohn you might have your tip of the tongue like at the tip [of the] reed, just so that you don’t get tired and slow down too fast.

HM: Thank you very much for this interview and for your CD! (HM received a CD with the Concertos from Bernard Henrik Crusell op. 1, 3, an 11)[13] That’s great! I listened to it online and appreciate a lot to have this CD!

SH: Actually, I performed opus 5 recently, which I did not record. It was a pleasure meeting and talking with you, Heinrich!


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  3. Gallwey, W. Timothy. 2015. The inner game of tennis: the classic guide to the mental side of peak performance
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  9. Kalman Bloch, clarinetist: Krein - Hebraic Sketches #2[9]
  10. Louis de Santis, clarinetist. Taylor - Through the Looking Glass[10]
  11. McLane, Ralph. Single or double lip? The clarinet 1950[11]
  12. Schöni, Andreas (2005). Zum Einfluss des Mundstücks auf Tonhöhe und Stimmung der Klarinette. Referat gehalten anlässlich des Symposiums im Rahmen der 30. Tage Alter Musik in Herne 2005 [12]
  13. Steve Hartman, clarinet. Crusell - Clarinet concerto[13]