Vogtland Journeys, from Boehm to Oehler – Part II

Before our third trip to the Vogtland in 2002, I contemplated quite a lot on whether a switch from Boehm to Oehler system clarinets would be a wise thing to do. But until I actually would switch it was basically back to the Dupré after failing to revive the Gottsmann (as explained in Vogtland Journeys, from Boehm to Oehler – Part I). So I spent a lot of time in a nearby monastery, were I was allowed to use the chapel for practice, improvising solo and ultimately recording ‘Ocean Wave‘. And then I suddenly realized why the Boehm system had become so popular and replaced the Oehler / Albert system in the Netherlands and beyond; playing it feels easy, at least in the beginning. And with a set of Bb and A clarinets you can play just about everything. The Boehm system just has a certain logic feel to it, unlike the Oehler system.

My biggest problem with the Boehm system was my own tendency of choosing the path of the least resistance, consequently repeating the same riffs and tricks when I got stuck in an improvisation. It felt like playing a piano without the black keys, like answering every question with the same answer.

I then started to expect the Nürnberger to relieve me of all this stuckness, surprise me again and act more as a counterpart in making music. When I played it in 2001 almost everything about it felt pleasantly challenging. Also I thought the Oehler system is much more balanced, with an almost mathematical precision. Not seducing me in any way to always play the easy key.

By the time I got back to the Vogtland and Fa. W.O. Nürnberger I was convinced I was making the right choice switching systems. And after a warm welcome by Herr und Frau Nürnberger I explained I would very much like Herr Nürnberger to build me a soloist A clarinet. Herr Nürngberger then glanced at Frau Nürnberger and went into the back of his workshop. He returned holding the very same A clarinet he let me play the year before and explained they had kept it safe for my return. Without any request from me whatsoever, or any indication when, Herr Nürnberger had decided this would be my clarinet the moment I first played it – perhaps now you understand why I say I am honoured to play a Nürnberger, a lot.

So instead of having to wait for months until my new clarinet would be finished I walked out the door that same day with my one and only Nürnberger soloist A clarinet. And many visits to the Nürnberger and Sämann family in just as many years later I am still very honoured to play a completely handmade Nürnberger clarinet, celebrating over three generations, knowledge and experience of master clarinet craftsmanship.

The real work started when I got back home. It took me most of 2003 – 2004 to regain the level of technique I had playing the Boehm system, which was much longer than I had anticipated. The pure tone of the Nürnberger made it worthwhile though. And the instrument proved more than a worthy and challenging counterpart in making music. In 2005 I played my first performance with the Nürnberger during ‘Avondvaart’, an homage to Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, together with Sander Bolk. In 2006 the first solo popped out, ‘Armahdus‘ which means grace in Finnish. After that the first two Rainbow sessions were recorded together with Paul van Gogh, which will be featured on ‘Narziß und Goldmund’.

In hindsight perhaps switching systems was not the best move, viewing it from sort of a “quantity-over-quality” and “don’t-try-to-reinvent-the-wheel” perspective. Let alone the being a “professional” musician perspective. If I would have had to pay my way through life with music, not playing, performing or recording anything for two years would not have been possible on my budget. Then again I do not like quantity over quality and have been known to be stubborn enough to try to reinvent the wheel, or at least find an alternative path to learn how to play clarinet. As far as being a professional goes, I do hope there is more to being a professional than making money.

Concluding all thoughts above I am just very grateful. Grateful to have found such a wonderful instrument – I wish every serious musician out there to find his or hers – grateful for finding the Nürnberger family and my home away from home in the Vogtland. Grateful for being able to live my life the way I am living it now and having made the choices I made to search for my music or more specifically my part in music. And I am certain the Nürnberger clarinet plays the most important role in playing music.