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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000593.txt from 2001/02

From: Daniel Leeson <>
Subj: Re: [kl] An absolutely mind-blowing event!!
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 12:31:18 -0500

I am in complete agreement with what Eric wrote. In fact, for those of
you who read between the lines, my original note contained the sentence
"While one can quibble about some technical details...". The gaps that
Eric points out are exactly the ones I had in mind.

But even granting those bumps in the road, I found the whole idea of
someone have enough nerve and energy to make a G basset horn and then
play the Winterthur fragment (though, clearly, with orchestration added
by someone), and during the course of this, make a film about something
so arcane as this to be absolutely wonderful.

That the film had technical issues did not diminish my respect for the
fact that someone had the hubris to do a TV show on the basset horn in
G. But Eric is absolutely correct on every technical point he makes.

Dan Leeson

Eric Hoeprich wrote:
> There are few clarinet player-historian-enthusiasts I hold in higher esteem
> than Dan Leeson. While I personally breathe a sigh of relief when I
> encounter anyone at all with interest in the history of the clarinet, Dan
> Leeson has impressed me frequently with his intelligence, wit and
> perceptiveness. And while I share his enthusiasm about research
> on the sketch of the clarinet concerto, K621b, a few facts connected with
> the sketch and the French television program may be of interest.
> 1. In the last ten bars of the Winterthur manuscript, Mozart departs from G
> major, and begins to notate the orchestra part in A major.
> 2. Confirmation of Mozart's change of key for the work appears in his own
> "Verzeichnis" where the entry for the clarinet concerto includes the first
> few bars in A major.
> 3. Additionally, the orchestration of the Winterthur MS includes no
> bassoons, unlike the final version, as given in Mozart's "Verzeichnis".
> 4. There are numerous basset horns in G extant. Most of the very early
> "sickle-shaped" instruments are in G, for example the Mayrhofer instruments
> in Nurnberg & Prague, as well as an anonymous instrument in Munich.
> 5. In fact, Mozart wrote for the basset horn in G in a "Notturno" requiring
> two clarinets in A and basset horn in G as accompaniment to three singers,
> "Mi
> lagnerò tacendo", K437.
> 6. In this as well as other Notturni, Mozart requires both chromatic basset
> notes, Eb/D# and Db/C#.
> 7. It is clear Stadler never performed the clarinet concerto in G. He could
> not have because Mozart never completed it in this key nor with this
> orchestration.
> 8. In the will of Theodor Lotz (the instrument maker who designed and built
> Stadler's basset clarinets), his remaining papers include a list of debts.
> We know already from the Mozart repertoire that Stadler possessed two basset
> clarinets: one in Bb and one in A. According to the description of the
> estate of Lotz, two instruments "of a
> new design" were built for Stadler, but the latter never paid for them.
> Where's the "enigma", and if there is one, what does this lavish television
> production do to solve it?
> Eric Hoeprich
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Daniel Leeson <>
> To:>
> Date: Thursday, February 15, 2001 6:28 PM
> Subject: [kl] An absolutely mind-blowing event!!
> >
> >With the assistance of a Canadian clarinetist who had a copy of the
> >tape, I obtained the 1-hour film, "The Enigma of K. 621b." While one
> >can quibble about some technical details, the film is an absolutely
> >remarkable picture of a determined clarinetist (Gilles Thomé who is
> >either French, Swiss, or Belgian) and what he decided to do in order to
> >play the Mozart clarinet concerto on a basset horn in G.
> >
> >I know nothing about the origin of this film. It was shown on
> >Australian TV where a friend brought its general contents to my
> >attention. I then posted on Klarinet and received some sketchy
> >information about it and finally the address of a Canadian who had a
> >copy, though in a format unacceptable to US VCRs.
> >
> >On finally receiving a copy of the tape I played it through and sat in
> >absolute astonishment. In an English language voice-over the narrator,
> >who is supposed to be Thomé, spoke of his interest in the G-basset horn
> >version of the work but was stopped by the fact that such an instrument
> >was simply unavailable, and there were only 3 examples in the world of
> >such a device.
> >
> >Further complicating his search was the realization that the manuscript
> >of K. 621b calls for a low C#, a note not known to be present on any
> >basset horn, in F or in G at that time and nowhere else called for by
> >Mozart in anything for basset horn. To me this issue was a straw man.
> >If Mozart wrote a low C#. then whoever the concerto was destined for had
> >the note so it was not central to the problem even though Thomé made it
> >such. It really impacted him to the extent that the instrument he
> >intended to build had no predecessor model to help him locate the place
> >for a low C# hole.
> >
> >So, off Thomé goes around Europe looking for various things to help him
> >understand the entire situation. First he goes to Winterthur to examine
> >the manuscript of K. 621b, absolutely the right thing to do even in the
> >face of the fact that a copy of that manuscript is published. Still,
> >there is nothing like examining the original for ink color, pagination,
> >watermarks (which could have been looked up in Tyson's book on Mozart
> >watermarks), etc. And in any case it gives one goosebumps to see such
> >a thing so I am in complete understanding why this was his first step.
> >
> >Next he went to several museums in German to examine and to play various
> >basset horns. He certainly looked at the only three in the world that
> >were in G. And, remarkably, one of them had a bell exactly like the
> >previously unknown one on Stadler's basset clarinet; i.e., at an
> >absolute right angle to the instrument's body and shaped like an English
> >horn bell, not at all like a clarinet bell. It also had a vent hole the
> >size of a dime in it which one can use to get a low B-natural, though
> >nothing was said about this on the show.
> >
> >All the while this adventure is going on, you hear Mozart's clarinet and
> >basset horn music being played on the very instruments that you are
> >seeing. I'm sure that they had to kill themselves to get these basset
> >horns and clarinets into shape to be able to be played, but they sounded
> >gorgeous!! A bad note here and there, and some few intonation problems,
> >but a real revelation in terms of sound character.
> >
> >Next, Thomé went to see H.C. Robbins Landon, the Haydn/Mozart specialist
> >who lives in Vienna (though he is an American). And with Thomé speaking
> >French and Landon speaking English, I'm not at all sure what information
> >was conveyed between them. But Landon's stuff was very good and Thomé's
> >comments translated, so you can understand the technical gist of what
> >was taking place.
> >
> >Finally, Thomé goes to a castle in Czechoslovakia or Hungary (where he
> >speaks French and they speak Czech, so how the hell did they understand
> >each other) and he sees three perfect basset horns made by Lotz in
> >absolutely mint condition. The metal was still shiny. These are the
> >old style basset horns with a bend in the middle, not the curved ones.
> >
> >Finally, he builds a basset horn in G, and about the first half of K.
> >621b is done on original instruments, very beautifully too, by the way.
> >He is an excellent player, whoever he is.
> >
> >This film is an absolute treasure for clarinetists. I don't know how
> >you are going to get it if you are interested, but sell your children,
> >mortgage your home, but get it anyway you can, that is, if this kind of
> >stuff interests you.
> >
> >The Enigma of K. 621b with Gilles Thomé. I don't know where or by whom
> >it was made and can't read it off my TV screen because I am dealing with
> >a copy that was made from a copy that was made from... You get the
> >idea.
> >
> >My copy shows that it was shown on Australian TV because, following the
> >final scenes, a TV lady comes on and tells me about the joys of Sydney
> >or Adelaide or someplace in Australia.
> >
> >
> >By the way, Thomé makes a big deal about the low D# also being present
> >and required in the G basset horn, but I don't know what this fuss is
> >about. The low E-flat is required in the second basset horn part of the
> >Gran Partitta and that dates from 1784 so why should the basset horn in
> >G NOT have a low D#? It's the same bloody note and a completely
> >non-problem issue.
> >
> >Oh yes, the clarinet quartet of the Gran Partitta is played on the film
> >with three players. Stuff like that, which will get by no clarinet
> >player who ever lived. Artistic licensee, you know.
> >--
> >***************************
> >** Dan Leeson **
> >** **
> >***************************
> >
> >
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** Dan Leeson **
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