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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000264.txt from 2001/05

From: Daniel Leeson <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Swiss clarinet symposium and Hoprich's low B-natural
Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 08:30:29 -0400

David Glenn wrote (about the presence of low notes on the basset
clarinet and my statement that this was only an assumption until
Poulin's discovery of a picture of Stadler's basset clarinet):

"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."

The Winterthur manuscript has absolutely nothing to do with the presence
or absence of low notes on a basset clarinet. The Winterthur manuscript
is for a basset horn. Thus the existence of low notes there is
completely irrelevant to the assertion that low notes existed on a
basset clarinet. The fact that a basset horn had such low notes has
never been without absolute proof. Such is not the case for the basset

The review found in the AMZ of 1802 was not known much before the late
1960s. Furthermore, there were strong arguments against such low notes.
For the case of those notes found in Cosi Fan Tutte, the great English
musicologist, Sir Donald Tovey, argued that Mozart had made a mistake
about the range of the instrument.

And finally, the presence of unexplained and not-understood text about a
"bassklarinet" in matrial of the period can only be understood to be
reference to a basset clarinet in hindsight.

All of this is evidence. None of it is proof.

So I suggest again that, while there was a great deal of speculation
about the rational necessity to have an instrument with low notes on it
for the last 60 years or so, until Poulin's discovery of that picture in
Latvia (I think I said Lithuania in my original note), there was never
proof that Stadler's instrument really did have them.

And I'll go one further. There is no hard evidence that he used those
low notes in either K. 622 or K. 581. I believe he did. You believe he
did. We all believe it. But there is no manuscript of either work to
confirm it, and all the places that we are inventing to have low notes,
are simply educated guesses. There are already serious differences of
opinion on which low notes should be used where. Hacker's edition is
different that Baerenreiters. And there is a musicologist in Boston who
says that they are both wrong.

David, you and I really do not have an argument on this matter, but I
think it is important to distinguish between what we abolutely know, and
what we think happened on the basis of rational analysis.

In my lifetime the basset clarinet has passed from not known about at
all (until Dazeley's paper of 1948) to a situation where you can buy one
at a local music story. That's very postive progress, to be sure. But
proof is another matter entirely and, prior to Poulin's discovery, it is
very possible to argue that all of that was nothing but speculation
based on evidence of a very uncertain kind.

** Dan Leeson **
** **

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