NEW Selmer Privilege Clarinet…
It’s arguably the greatest time ever to be looking for a new professional wooden clarinet, there are simply loads of wonderful choices. In fact whilst discussing this exact topic with a colleague the other day it was noted that if you can’t find a great instrument now then it’s probably time to try playing another instrument, or take up something equally lucrative such as Hungarian stamp collecting…
In an area of the market that was traditionally dominated by Buffet it’s been interesting to see their dominance fragment over the last few years (90% to around 35-40% in our clarinet stats) and we’ve seen new models from Yamaha (CSGIII & CSVR), Uebel (Superior), Backun (Protege) all come into the £1500-£3500 range to compete successfully for your hard earned money. So what have Buffets neighbours Selmer been doing recently to get involved? Well, there was the recent introduction of the SeleS Presence which was really designed to go head to head with the R13 level, and now they’ve taken on the top end of the pro market with the NEW Privilege model.
The Privilege name has been used by Selmer before but unlike Yamaha they don’t get into using Roman numerals to distinguish a new model, i.e. it’s not the Privilege II, it’s just a Privilege! OK, confusing denominations aside let’s get into the actual clarinet…
How does it look?
Firstly it looks stunning, the black matte chromed body rings are pretty smart looking and unlike some other brands at least Selmer don’t try and claim this was done for some acoustical improvement (not yet at least!), in fact being French they’d be well within their rights to say they did it to make it look more beautiful, and why not?! There are also some keys that have delicate engraving on as well, again this is purely aesthetic but come on people, let’s enjoy this attention to aesthetic beauty and not pour scorn on it, after all what does the world have left if everything is bland looking!
The case is also pretty Parisian in it’s chic, sleek look. And, unlike the Buffet Divine case it actually has a handle so you can carry it, not just glide down the High St with it buried under your arm like a fluffy dog stuffed in a handbag.
How does it play?
Well, it plays like a Selmer…a really good Selmer! Your author is a Selmer player and as such I’m generally a fan of their clarinets but I must admit they haven’t done anything for the last 15-20 years to really get me totally excited. The last version of this Privilege was indeed nice but it wasn’t ‘sell all your stuff and buy one’ nice.
Without wishing to generalise too much I personally feel the Selmer ‘sound’ is quite rich, with a dark lower register and a sweeter upper register. I feel with this Privilege they’ve also brought some of the immediate presence of a Yamaha CSGIII or indeed the new Buffet RC which is also a great clarinet. There also seems to be a good amount of projection in the instrument and unlike the Selmer Recital (which also has projection) it doesn’t weigh a tonne. Tuning seems solid and reliable all the way through the instrument with the throat area feeling particularly safe.
Under the fingers the new Privilege has had a slight re-design and particular attention has been paid to the left hand little finger keys (B/E and F#/C#) and the extra Eb key which is far enough away not to be an obstruction but close enough not to leave your pinky in ‘no mans land’ when rapidly trying to reach it. They’ve also made some adjustments to the right hand little finger keys around the F/C area. So, for me as a Selmer user it actually feels a bit different but very usable, it would be interesting to see how a Buffet or Yamaha user found the new layout, I would expect there wouldn’t be any issues.
Let’s have a look and listen to my colleague Anton Weinberg giving the new Privilege a try:
This new Privilege comes into a pretty full marketplace, indeed Selmer themselves have 3 or 4 other models, Yamaha have 2 or 3 in this price point and Buffet have close to 460,000 seemingly but joking aside it’s pretty congested and it’s not as if there are suddenly lots of new Clarinettists needing expensive clarinets. Couple that with the fact the pre-conceptions of players, teachers etc is quite heavily scorched into the psyche of buyers and in reality this instrument will probably achieve moderate sales but without setting the world on fire.
In some ways it’s a great shame, the new models seem to be coming to the market quicker than the market can absorb them. Here in the UK we have quite a traditional clarinet market as well, much more so than in other countries including the US and Japan for example. All I would say is be brave and don’t be afraid to try new models, forget what you’ve heard on the grapevine or what you thought of a particular brand from trying an instrument 10-15 years ago and just approach it with new eyes, and ears…you may be surprised what you like!
Sam – Woodwind Dept