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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000205.txt from 2010/05

From: "Keith Bowen" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Clarinets for Stravinsky and DeFalla?
Date: Fri, 21 May 2010 18:45:30 -0400


You are of course correct. However, Stravinsky did call for the bass in A
once, in the Rite of Spring (1913), three years after Firebird, so he at
least knew by then. I didn't discover any other Stravinsky uses.

It's likely that Stravinsky would have known the Berlioz orchestration
manual in the Strauss revision of 1904. Strauss says: "The new clarinets in
Bb and bass clarinets have a C# key [written Eb]. Bass clarinets in A are
now used very rarely; one frequently has to transcribe them in Bb." However,
they appear in many instrument manufacturers' catalogues until the 1950s,
and were quite readily available till the 1930s (how often they were
actually made is another question).

Strauss' mixture of clarinets is indeed confusing but I think the evidence
in the scores is that he selected exactly the ones that he wanted. My
hypothesis is that as well as the timbre, the 'local' key in which an
instrument was played was a significant factor to some composers. It's a
topic I hope to return to one day.


-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Leeson []
Sent: 21 May 2010 23:03
To: The Klarinet Mailing List
Subject: Re: [kl] Clarinets for Stravinsky and DeFalla?

I thank Lelia for summarizing the clarinet requirements of both the De Falla

and the Stavinsky work. I want to comment on the Stravinsky.

She is correct in reporting the three clarinets in A plus a bass clarinet in

B-flat. That is exactly the kind of instrumentation that calls for a bass
clarinet in A, which allows all four players to be in the same key, thereby
uncomplicating the task of the composer.

I suspect that Stravinskyh requested the bass clarinet in B-flat because he
probably believed that either there was no such instrument or else that it
was unlikely to find a player who owned one.

Keith Bowen, who recently did a Master's dissertation on the bass clarinet
in A, probably realizes this anomaly better than I, Yet at the same time,
and in defense of Stravinsky, Strauss will, on occasion, have six clarinets
playing in three different keys, for example 1 in D and E-flat, 2 in B-flat,

2 in A, and a bass in both B-flat and A.

Makes life difficult for the composer and somewhat confusing for the

Dan Leeson

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