Klarinet Archive - Posting 000012.txt from 2007/12
From: "Karl Krelove" <karlkrelove@-----.net>
Subj: [kl] Molter Concerti
Date: Mon, 03 Dec 2007 19:07:30 -0500
I'm interested in learning something about the Molter clarinet concerti. In
the prefaces to each of the four (Breitkopf editions), Heinz Becker says the
"As one can see from the range of the concerti, they were written for the
Premier Dessus. Their range corresponds exactly to the upper and lower
extreme tones given by Francoeur: e1-g3."
I am trying to understand why these concerti are written in so high a range.
They'd be shrill and taxing enough on a larger instrument, but they were
all, apparently, written for a clarinet in D. The quotation above, though,
on its face confuses me more than it helps. First, what is the Premier
Dessus? My background of high school French (40 years ago) tells me it may
refer to the highest (top) notes, although I don't understand how "dessus"
and "premier" go together. But also, I don't understand what the octave
designations mean. Is Francoeur (in his *Diapason general* of 1772) using
those designations to describe the complete compass of a late 18th century
clarinet? If so, then it seems either the instruments stopped at first-line
E (treble staff) or the instrument's useful range ended with G above the top
line. The concerti sit with only a very few exceptions between 3rd-line
("clarion") C and ("altissimo") G 4 lines above the staff. The exceptions
are a few instances, fewer than ten over all four concerti, of notes below C
- specifically 2nd-line ("throat") G and "middle" ("chalumeau") C (one line
below the staff and an octave below the general limit of these pieces). So
the range, at least in these published versions, doesn't correspond to the
range of 2 octaves and a sixth quoted by Becker from the Diapason, whichever
octaves were meant. The general range is a twelfth from C 3rd-space to
altissimo G not counting the few exceptions.
So, to distill my confusion to a few specific questions:
1. What is Premier Dessus and whose term is it?
2. Is Francoeur's Diapason general available in an English translation (I
could try reading the French, but it wouldn't even be modern French)?
3. What octaves was Francoeur describing in 1772, and what instruments (from
what time period) was he talking about?
4. Do we know when these were actually composed? Becker implies somewhere
between 1717 and 1734, but doesn't give an actual year.
4. Are these Breitkopf editions the only ones available and are they
5. Is the high tessitura of these pieces likely a result of instruments'
having been more severely limited than those of a few years later (for which
Stamitz and Mozart composed) or could the music have been for some reason
misread and intended to have been played (or to have sounded) an octave
In lieu of specific answers, if anyone can point me to any useful and
available sources, I would be happy to do my own looking (no, this isn't for
a school paper - I'm a good number of years beyond that).
Many thanks for any information.