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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000501.txt from 2003/06

Subj: Re: [kl] Period basset horns (was: Purchase of Orchestral parts)
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2003 16:51:01 -0400

Interestingly enough this is one of the areas of perfromance with the
Requiem that gives clarinet players such a trial. The Basset Horn really
does not project in the area where the majority of the Requiem K626
requires...for example the opening note of the Bendectus on the Basset is a
Concert F, fine and dandy, but on the brass counterpart this is certainly a
more flexible and projectile sound.

That being said I am still convinced that Mozart really intended the Basset
horn, but on some pretext or maybe even lack of communication forgot or even
didn't discuss orchestration problems with Sussmayr. I also know that the
solo in the Lacrymosa is another bugger to prject and begins one more time
on the same note......

It would certainly be interesting to hear the French horn play the licks at
the opening where the Bassets come in close harmony....this is one of the
more delicious spots in the entire piece.

This also brings me to mind whether or not the G Basset Horn maybe was used
due to the structure of the Cocert G major or minor this would
have given the sound quite a different colouring....hmmmm

After years of playing in orchestra I can certainly say the Requiem is
really a tough part especially if the conductor is inept at understanding
orchestral balances....very few recent recording allow the Bassett horns to
emerge in a natural way....usually engineers who are playing with the
buttons tend to put an unnatural forward balance on the few bits or instead
they remain submerged in a quagmire of texture.....Decca seems the worst at
iverdoing unnatural glaring balances in music like this...

Just a few thoughts....

David Dow Original Message -----
From: "Brash, Alexander" <>
Subject: RE: [kl] Period basset horns (was: Purchase of Orchestral parts)

Actually, there's no need to hunt through all those it is, I
think. Is this it Dan?

External Resources:

Ownership: Check the catalogs in your library.
Libraries worldwide that own item: 43

Author: Leeson, Daniel N.
Title: Mozart's deliberate use of incorrect key signatures for clarinets
Source: Mozart-Jahrbuch 1998. p. 139-152. ISSN: 0077-1805

Language: German
Class: Theory, analysis, and composition: Tuning, temperament, scale
Abstract: [unedited] Mozart's key signatures for the clarinet and basset
horn are analyzed in light of contemporaneous method books for these
instruments. The method books allow at most a B-flat in the key signature;
in many cases, Mozart uses additional accidentals, but he nevertheless
sticks to the official key signatures as prescribed by contemporaneous
theory.(Leibnitz, Thomas)
Document Type: ap -- Article in a periodical
Accession No: 99-23533-ap
Database: RILM_Music_Abstracts

Alexander Michael Brash
Education Dept, New York Philharmonic
10 Lincoln Center Plaza, 5th Floor

phone (212) 875 - 5735
cell (646) 284 - 0439

-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Leeson []
Subject: Re: [kl] Period basset horns (was: Purchase of Orchestral parts)

Joseph Wakeling wrote:
> Dan Leeson wrote:
> << When Bob Levin and I published a paper on the clarinet and basset horn
> writing of Mozart, we both came to the conclusion (and said so in print),
> that Süssmayr did not know that a basset horn was a woodwind instrument.
> may have thought that it was a member of the French horn family and had no
> idea of how to write for it. >>
> Remarkable. I remember a while back you pointed to Süssmayr's writing an
> major section for the basset horn as evidence of his lack of knowledge.
> This seems to me even more surprising if he thought that he was writing
> a type of French horn, whose key restrictions were surely even greater.
> (A question for those experienced in period performance---how difficult
> that section on period bassets?)
> Dan, Is there an online version of your paper available anywhere (or else,
> where was it published)?
> -- Joe

Published in the Mozart Jahrbuch. No online versions. The most recent
issue of that Journal is 2001. Our article is between 1995 and that
one. The title is "Mozart's deliberate writing for clarinets and basset
horns in the wrong key" or something like that. You will have to go to
a large library (such as a university library) and ask if they have the
Mozart Jahrbuch. Then look in the index of each volume between 95 and
2001 until you find it. Most university libraries have it but it depends
on where you live.

The conclusion that Levin and I came to about Sussmayr thinking that the
basset horn was a kind of French horn was due to how he wrote for the
instrument. The culture at that time in writing for French horns (and
to a large extent, still in use today) was to always write the part in
written C major and add the accidentals as needed. No other instrument
in the orchestra was treated this way. Well that is exactly how
Sussmayr wrote for the basset horns in his manuscript of the Requiem.
And this forced us to the conclusion that he thought the instrument was
written for as a French horn is written for. He didn't write for
clarinets that way, only basset horns. Therefore, ...

It is not that he was stupid, only that he had very limited experience
in orchestral writing and he had never before ever written for basset
horn (and never would again). The German word for the instrument is
"Bassethorn" which means "little bass horn" so he must have thought that
a basset horn was a bass French horn.

**Dan Leeson **
** **

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