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Harlow committed to preserving classics

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff
Russell Harlow stands in front of the final resting place of Johannes Brahms.
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Park City’s Russell Harlow is garnering attention on a broad scale, according to his wife Leslie Harlow.

"People who know about clarinets, know about Russ," Leslie said.

Russ has been in the Utah Symphony for 35 years, since he was 21 years old. He’s performed in international clarinet conventions around the world and is soon set to play in Vancouver.

Russell is a scholar of classical music, especially of the clarinet. He, at times, would rather write about the old greats in the magazine Clarinet Central, than play.

It’s something that slightly frustrates Leslie. She says sometimes she has to push him to perform, to show off how good he is.

"He’ll spend all his time writing about old clarinetists, when he plays as well as they did. He’s the living example of their talent," Leslie said.

Recently, Russell awoke the music from a sleeping giant the deceased Louis DeSantis. According to Leslie, DeSantis was a legendary clarinetist, one of the best, if not the finest.

Russell flew to Hawaii and met DeSantis’ family. During the visit, Russell found old recordings and music that had not been previously recorded. Russell, with the permission of the family, was able to publish the book as "New Studies for Clarinet by Louis DeSantis."

"The family just loves Russ," Leslie said. "He brought back a volume of etudes that had gone out of print 60 years ago. It’s important to keep this music alive."

The book brings back some of the most impressive music ever written for clarinet, Leslie added.

Russ, however, is following in the legend’s footsteps.

"Russ, he’s kind of a pioneer in clarinet but also a preservationist, both in playing and the actual instrument," Leslie said.

Rather than buying newer equipment to work with, Russell prefers the sound of old instruments.

"He has a 100-year-old clarinet," Leslie said. "It has a beautiful old sound, it’s a very expressive style. He’s working on preserving it and promoting it."

He is currently working with Yamaha in developing instruments that will deliver a sound similar to those of older instruments.

"Yamaha came out with a new line that Russ helped them redesign," Leslie said. "He’s also designing a mouthpiece with a rubber company from Akron, Ohio. It’s a hard rubber process of producing and curing rubber for nine months."

Russell is also working with Lee Livengood, the president of the International Clarinet Association and Brad Behn in preserving what Leslie termed "the great clarinet playing styles and instruments."

"Both Brad and Russ are working to perfect the old techniques of making fine mouthpieces. Both Lee and Brad are extremely fine clarinetists as well as two of the nation’s finest mouthpiece re-facers," Leslie said.

"Clarinet mouthpieces are made of hard rubber and change over time. Mouthpiece re-facers do very intricate work, usually involving delicate measuring and sanding to adjust mouthpieces to order for clarinetists," Leslie said.

The Harlows have recently recorded with a new chamber music recording that should be released within the year. There are challenges associated with recording chamber music. Harlow said it is difficult to capture the essence of the instrument through recordings. However, they are excited about this one.

They recorded it through a new technique developed by Ray Kimber called "Isomike."

"It’s high-end audio," Leslie said. "He hasn’t produced one with a solo clarinet yet. So far, it’s the best reproduction of what a clarinet sounds like live, as far as what I’ve heard."

Kimber records for Saint Martin in the Fields, a collection of musicians based in London that travel the world.

"They are all-stars," Leslie said. "These are the guys who play, the cream of the crop, there are eight principal players. They are known all over the world."

Russell met Ray while watching Saint Martin in the Fields play. Since then, the two have formed a bond.

This fall, Parkites can tune in to the Harlows and other chamber music stars during the Autumn Classics Music Festival. Leslie wants to make sure people don’t stereotype the shows into what she called "boring" chamber music.

"It’s thrilling for us because we are not boring," she said. "Some of the best music ever written is for chamber music."

The format will be similar to the Park City Music Festival that was held during the summer.

"We think it’s the most interesting and exciting way to show chamber music," Leslie said. "It’s usually led by soloists. When Brahms was writing his pieces, he’d turn music over to soloists."

After the events of summer, she believes the Autumn Festival will be able to fill a void.

"In the fall, not as much is happening, we’ve always wanted to do the fall," she said. It’s cooler and people will want to be indoors. Our music is designed to be in a hall. Our event fits the fall, we feel like we are filling a gap."

"We get calls all year from people saying, ‘Do you have a concert tonight?’" Leslie said.

Starting Sept. 18, they will.

The second season of the Autumn Classics Music Festival will begin Sept. 18 and go through Oct. 9. For more information about tickets and schedules, log on to http://www.pcmusicfestival.com.


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