Klarinet Archive - Posting 000761.txt from 1998/03
From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.edu>
Subj: Re: Bass in A
Date: Thu, 12 Mar 1998 09:50:25 -0500
> From: MX%"klarinet@-----.23
> Subj: Re: Bass in A
> I must gently dispute Dan Leeson, the reason composers wrote for Bass in
> A is not unknown. It was the same as for soprano in A or piccolo in D,
> ie, to provide a comfortable scale for the player working in sharps.
> This practice was NOT merely theoretical or such worldly, practical
> composers as Strauss, Mahler and Ravel would not have used A bass
I used to think this too until I began to find orchestral passages for
soprano clarinets in B-flat and the bass in A, and vice versa. While
the need to provide a comfortable scale for players working in sharps
was certainly the reason for the A soprano clarinet in the classic and
early romantic periods, by the time of the bass clarinet's serious
introduction into the orchestra, no need to provide comfortable scales
in sharp keys existed (or at least much less of a need).
I doubt if we will solve the problem here, but the A bass' origin
is somewhat unclear in clarinet history. The little research I've
done shows me that its origin was very much Germanic and one finds
advertisements for them being played in German military bands.
> Ever played La Valse? I did in 1990, and the bass clarinetist took sick
> a night before the concert. I own a bass, so calls were made. You
> haven't LIVED until you are asked to cover the bass clarinet solos at
> sight at a dress rehearsal, while also ostensibly playing the English
> horn part, and find that the major bass parts are for bass in A!
> I will look up what Strauss sez about A bass in his revision of Berlioz'
> text, but not now, it is late on the East coast and I have surgery
> RObert Howe
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California
Rosanne Leeson, Los Altos, California