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The Buffet Festival Bb Clarinet is a great leap forward
Written: May 19, 2012
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:great sound and intonation, solid keywork, auxiliary Eb/Ab key
The Bottom Line: it's a great professional model and worth paying more for the extra key.
I had become dissatisfied with my Leblanc Concerto II over the last couple of years because the keys were soft and needed frequent adjustment. That issue, while not known when I bought the instrument, was now well known in the clarinet world. In fact, Leblanc, a once proud brand, closed their factory in France in 2008.
So, I started considering alternatives and, of course, the Buffet R13, the professional model with the most acceptance among orchestral players in the US, came to the forefront. I had recommended used R13s to a couple of my students, who had used them successfully. I also noticed that another clarinet in the Buffet family, the Festival, cost less than $300 more, had a warmer sound due to design enhancements and had an extra key, an auxiliary left hand Eb/Bb key, which made many passages easier to execute, particularly in heavy flat and sharp keys. The only difficulty I saw was that there were very few Festival models available used, presumably because the players who bought them enjoyed them so much.
I contacted my local music store, who is a Buffet dealer, and asked for pricing on the Buffet Festival Bb Clarinet in grenadilla wood. The dealer quoted me the $3488 price that the competitive mail order stores show and he told me that he had just gotten a used model in, which was a good playing instrument. I made an appointment to try it.
When I tried it, I first examined the clarinet to see if it had any cracks, pads needed or any other immediate repair needs. Their were none, not a surprise since I was told that their clarinet expert had examined the instrument and liked it.
I play tested the instrument. I liked the sound and intonation. The store owner, a friend, listened and gave his feedback as well. Aside from the sound, I was really enjoying the keywork. The keys are much more stable than on the Leblanc Concerto II and the positioning of the keys, particularly the left hand pinky C/F and G#/C# keys was clearly superior on the Buffet. I also noticed that the bridge key between the upper and lower joint was better designed and sturdier on the Buffet.
The extra key, the left hand Eb/Ab key was particularly pleasing. On clarinet, most of the notes on the pinky keys can be played on either hand. That is because difficult technical passages require that the players switch hands on consecutive pinky notes in order to sound fluid. The challenge is that there is only a right hand Eb/Ab key available on most clarinets. That limits the player's choices in executing passages that include an Eb with the register key or Ab in the lower register. The additional left hand Eb/Ab key gives the player more options for smooth execution and I am looking forward to getting more comfortable with it.
According to the Buffet web site, the Buffet Festival Bb Clarinet has the following features:
● Body: African Blackwood (grenadilla), chosen, dried and tested with care
● Bore: High precision
● Undercut tone holes
● Keywork: silver-plated, pre-plated in copper, then silver plated, cold power forged
● Rods and pivot screws in stainless steel, adjusted by master craftsmen
● Pointed needle springs
● Gore-Tex pads
● Eb / Ab lever
● Adjustable thumb rest
● 2 barrels (65,66MM)
The Buffet Festival BB clarinet is also available in a Greenline model, where the body is made by a proprietary process using 95% crushed Grenadilla powder and 5% epoxy. The price and sound are identical and the Greenline models are not subject to cracking de to temperature changes.
I am pleased with my Buffet Festival Bb Clarinet. The only con is that the case is rather pedestrian, with no room for music and only modest room for reeds, supplies and accessories. I bought an aftermarket case cover because of this.
5 stars. The Buffet Festival Bb Clarinet is a great instrument.
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