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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000622.txt from 2004/08

From: "dnleeson" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] FW: 1896 Selmer Basset Horn
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 2004 14:55:12 -0400

I have a bit of history about a basset horn from that era that
may be helpful, but it will be interesting.

Paul Howland, the NY clarinetist (whose brother taught at Fresno
for years) gave me a few basset horn lessons ca. 1964. He owned a
basset horn in its original case that he had bought ca. 1930 from
the wife of an Italian player (I mean playing professionaly in
Italy) who had bought it before 1900 but who had died a few
months earlier. It was a Buffet but, functionally, I was unable
to find anything significantly different from my (at that time)
brand new Selmer basset horn bought in Paris only 6 months
earlier and made for me at that time. (Ancillary issue: when Paul
died, the instrument went to his brother who sold it to a
clarinetist in Colorado, I think Denver or Boulder.)

But there was one very important physical difference between our
cases. His, like mine, was a fitted case and in a bilious green
velvet-like substance. The difference was that my mouthpiece
would not fit into the slot that was made to hold it.

Paul had concluded much earlier that the mouthpiece of a basset
horn should be big enough to fit into that slot so he shortened
his mouthpiece by cutting off a piece of the tenon, remaking the
tenon itself by cutting into the body of the mouthpiece and
recorking it. When he got done, the tenon was the same length
(which allowed it to fit into the hold fully) but the moutpiece
was about 1/4" shorter. I didn't measure it so don't ask me to
be more exact.

He added that doing this to a mouthpiece would change its ability
to be in tune, so he reamed out the bore of the mouthpiece in
compensation for its shortened length.

All of this effort on his part was decided on by the physical
characteristics of the basset horn case, dating from maybe 1890.
I did not know that Buffet made such an instrument then but they
did. Now it seems that Selmer also made a basset horn way back
then. And the fact that we do not have the original case is
significant because I would love to have seen and measured the
slot for the mouthpiece.

Interesting, no??

Dan Leeson

-----Original Message-----
From: Lelia Loban []
Sent: Saturday, August 21, 2004 10:49 AM
Subject: [kl] FW: 1896 Selmer Basset Horn

Re. the instrument the seller describes as an 1896 Selmer basset
horn on
eBay at
sPageNa me=3DSTRK:MEWA:IT.

Ken Shaw wrote,
>I also doubt that it belonged to Sir Henry Wood.
>The case is stenciled "RAM" (Royal Academy of
>Music), so it is a school instrument that had probably
>been in storage for a long time.

At some point, the original case for this instrument may have
worn out, and
a used case (with the RAM stencil) may have been re-fitted inside
accomodate the basset horn. If the seller is right that this is
a basset
horn in F dating from 1896, then I don't think it would have come
with this
type of case. The outer contour of the case in the photos is not
of late 19th century clarinet cases. Also, I think that garish,
red velvet
lining came into use in the 1920s, but it was still in use by
Selmer, for
Selmer and Bundy cases, at least as recently as the 1980s. With
instruments, unless there's good reason to think that a case is
original, I assume it isn't.

Lelia Loban
More trees, less Bush: Kerry and Edwards in 2004!

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