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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000259.txt from 2001/05

From: David Glenn <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Swiss clarinet symposium and Hoprich's low B-natural
Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 05:42:00 -0400

Daniel Leeson wrote:

> I am very grateful to David Glenn for reporting on the clarinet
> symposium about which I posted several weeks ago. It was kind of him to
> take the time to advise all about the event.

Dan, your most welcome. It also helped me to organize my thoughts.

> There were many important things about which David spoke, but for me,
> the most important was what may be a misunderstanding on his part or
> mine about the matter of the Hoprich's low B-natural. I quote his
> entire paragraph and will then address it in some detail.
> "(After) 11:30 came Eric Hoeprich (from Amsterdam I thought but now I
> know he originally comes from California). His lecture was entitled "New
> Discoveries About Mozart's Clarinet Concerto KV622. For me, this was the
> absolute high point of the day. (In all fairness, I wasn't there for the
> following speakers.) Mr. Hoeprich told us of the program which Pamela
> Poulin found in Riga which announces Stadler's playing of the Mozart
> concerto and shows a drawing of a basset clarinet. On attempting to copy
> this instrument in his workshop, Mr. Hoeprich made some startling
> discoveries. First of all, the "amour"-shaped bell makes a much
> different sound in the low register than the traditional clarinet bell
> which he demonstrated for us. Second of all, the bell joint produced not
> a low C - but a low B natural until he bored an extra hole (as is also
> visible in the program). Why did one writer report that the basset
> clarinet had 5 (sic) extra low tones? Well, Mr. Hoeprich bored the hole
> and got his low C like that. Then he told us that he had always been
> bothered by that passage in the last movement (starting at m.145). If
> not for the low B, it could be played down an octave which would seem to
> fit better. Well, darn it! What did he do but played it down an octave!!
> He got the low B by covering the hole with his knee. I'll have to have
> my extended clarinets extended further. Basset clarinet makers, you've
> gotten it wrong up until now! We need a low B!"
> This is not the way I understand the situation, and I discussed the
> matter both with Hoprich (via e-mail) and an Australian player who also
> built a basset clarinet based on the discovery by Pamela Poulin of a
> picture of Stadler's instrument. I also chatted with Poulin about the
> matter in a recent symposium held in Las Vegas but she was not aware of
> the matter of the low B-natural so I'll only mention her role in the
> discovery of the picture.
> First, Poulin found a program from a concert given by Stadler in
> Lithuania in 1799 (I think). In that program was a drawing of Stadler's
> unique clarinet. Until that moment of discovery, everything about the
> basset clarinet of Stadler (and even if he really had one) was
> speculation. It was intelligent speculation, to be sure, and it has
> turned out to be mostly correct, but there was never any evidence that
> Mozart wrote K. 622 with a special clarinet in mind or, for that matter,
> that such a thing really did exist. All one could say is that, based on
> the evidence of certain compositions, "it had to have existed." But
> people say that about the devil, too.

> Poulin's finding and publication of that picture was a major revelation,
> with more revelations to come.

Yes, a major revelation - but there was already hard evidence. There was the
Winterthur manuscript and there was the review in the AMZ of 1802. I'm sure
you know this but I don't know why you might not consider it to be evidence.
Then there were smaller pieces of evidence: low notes here and there in
Mozart's clarinet music, mention of a "Bassklarinet", etc. All slightly more
convincing evidence than about the devil.

> That picture shows a vent hole roughly at the point where the instrument
> makes a radical 90 degree angle at the point where the lower joint joins
> the bell. Of far greater importance than the vent hole (at least
> initially) was the shape and placement of the bell. It's more like an
> egg-shaped English horn bell than the flared clarinet bell.
> On the basis of that picture, Hoprich built such an instrument and he
> included the vent hole. According to the email conversations I had with
> him, the low C existed and the air column for that note came out of the
> vent hole. So it is not correct to suggest that Stadler's instrument
> did not have the low C.

I was not suggesting this. What I meant to say is that Hoeprich, in the
process of constructing the basset clarinet, discovered that before boring
the vent hole, a low B came out as a bell tone. It follows that the B will
come again when the vent hole is closed.

> Hoprich's later discovery, and I believe it was by accident, came about
> when he closed the vent hole with his leg or calf. It was not
> deliberate but perhaps I misunderstood him. In any event, he closed it
> with some part of his lower leg and he then got a low B-natural.
> It is because the vent hole has no cover on it that this peculiar way of
> covering it was needed. It's not unique in music to do such things to
> instruments to make them play beyond their normal range. Nielsson did
> it for the bassoon in the quintet, and players who do that work keep a
> cardboard roll to insert in the bell so as to achieve the low C. I did
> it on my A clarinet to get a low D.

I play a low B on my bass clarinet in the same manner as Hoeprich. The
problem is: I have to take my shoe off to do it. Paper and carboard
extensions have also been discussed on this list. I know of nothing
indicating this probability in the Mozart/Stadler/Lutz "Bassklarinet".

> But the most important thing that Hoprich did was to conclude that
> Mozart may have wanted that note at the place he specified (and later at
> a parallel passage). NOW THAT'S NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I don't know if Eric *concluded* that Mozart wrote a low B. In fact, the
whole morning I heard a lot of "I don't know". At one point, Francois Benda
exclaimed how exciting it all is - a "court case" based on circumstantial
evidence! And Eric said that not knowing so much gives us an "excuse" to be
here this morning.

> I apologize to David if he gets the impression that I am arguing with
> him. On the contrary, I suggest that it may be me who misunderstands
> the matter, but when I checked all of this analysis with the Australian
> clarinetist who also had a basset clarinet built in the same way that
> Hoprich built his, he agreed completely with the vent hole's role in the
> low C and the bell's role in the low B-natural.
> And I make a big deal out of this for two reason: (1) it is a big deal;
> i.e., the idea that Stadler's instrument could possibly have gone that
> low is, from a clarinet historical point of view, a significant
> revelation and requires some substantial rethinking of the whole
> question of the text of both K. 622 and 581 (and maybe other works,
> too); (2) when things start to get twisted at the beginning of the study
> period, they almost never get untwisted if one waits a long while to
> raise your hand and say, "It ain't so." So I'm trying to get this thing
> untwisted before it is lost beyond repair.
> --
> ***************************
> ** Dan Leeson **
> ** **
> ***************************


Please forgive my unbanded enthousiasm about the low B. It's not at all
scientific of me. But as a clarinetist and Mozart lover, I was absolutely
thrilled! I would love to hear/read further conversations/discussions about
this perhaps directly between you and Eric and the Australian you mentioned.
Getting the facts does interest me.

Best regards,


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