PHRASING AND INTERPRETATION
In the world of clarinet playing - and certainly, not solely limited to that instrument - the concentration on finger agility to the sacrifice of many other aspects of playing such as musicianship is at best, myopic. There has been a growing trend among some clarinetists of the last twenty years or so to becoming extraordinary technicians but - at the expense of developing only facility - neglecting fine musicianship. The path to becoming a good player/musician must include some of, or all of, the following attributes, and it goes without saying, that initially, fundamental talent must be inherit in each individual. In interpreting music one must adhere to the basic intent of the composer, and in so doing must:
1. Have a thorough understanding of the period in which the music was composed. Knowing the salient differences in the Baroque or Classical period; or the Romantic or Contemporary periods. Each period having its own performance practice and stylistic characteristics.
2. Characteristically understand the stylistic traits of a composer's music. Listening - on a regular basis - to music of many composers is the only way these traits can be understood, and the repertoire should include everything from opera to chamber music and from symphony to sonata. Each composer continually uses similar clichés in harmony, rhythm, and melody, providing a strong sense of continuity and uniformity to their overall style and technique.
3. Immediately, incorporate all dynamic markings and nuances into each phrase and/or section. Many young players tend to practice notes first, with the intention of placing nuances later. This requires a double learning process, and many times it becomes very difficult - if not ever attainable - to successfully play the music as intended. Many times when the music indicates crescendo or diminuendo, players - young and old alike - think they are actually making these differences, but are not. They must exaggerated, and to do this one must practice beginning a note very softly i.e. pp and proceed to crescendo to ff in a graduated manner, and proceed back to the pp in the same manner. Practicing in this way will provide the necessary control to establish the concept of well controlled flexibility and contrast so necessary in the performance of music.
4. Don't allow the fingers to slap the keys of the instrument, it is distracting and interrupts the smooth and graceful flow of the music. Flowing note continuity in the phrase is the ultimate goal of good musical practice, playing each note with a hammering effect destroys the succession of notes. In slow phrasing, moving from one notes to another with a more gentle and caressing motion helps to maintain a liquid flow of notes riding on the breath. Of course when we play fast, the fingers are kept very close to the keys and must mover very rhythmically and precisely. One technique does not interfere with the other; they are two separate operations and must be learned that way.
5. Allow the music to breathe. Observe phrase endings with smooth and careful delineation, not creating abrupt or cut-off notes.
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