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 What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-05-23 18:34

First of all, I mean the basset clarinet, not to be confused with the basset horn (or the basset hound!). The only time I have heard the basset clarinet used is in the Mozart clarinet concerto and clarinet quintet. Are there other works that use this instrument? I, personally, am not so keen on its use in these two great masterpieces. It makes some passages sound like a duet between two different instruments. But I must admit that I am conditioned by having heard them on an ordinary A clarinet most of my life.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2019-05-23 19:50

What do you think of OPERA?

It makes the music sound like a dialogue between different people, rather than a melodic line carried by just one person, as it is in a PROPER song.

Tony

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-05-23 20:02

Well I know that this is not the proper answer, but I have to say that I don't really care for that person's dialogue. My dislike stems from the plethora of versions of the Mozart Concerto that seem like an obligation now rather than an artistic endeavor. There is a version of the Requiem I've heard that is ok with bassets but I think we have gotten to the point were it's over done.


Honestly I have always preferred the Mozart Concerto on a straight up A clarinet. It feels right despite the moments pointed out that seem to "alberti" where it should be a straight scale.


For the record, the Grand Partita is also designated for basset. meh




..............Paul Aviles



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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-05-23 23:14

Paul Aviles wrote:

> For the record, the Grand Partita is also designated for
> basset. meh

2 Clarinets in Bb, 2 Basset Horns in F

Karl

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-05-23 23:22

Paul: Mozart's Gran Partita has 2 basset horns rather than two basset clarinets. If I'm not mistaken.

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2019-05-23 23:29

ruben- as you say, we are all conditioned to some extent by that which we are accustomed to. So I find the question about what various individuals think about the basset clarinet a lot less interesting than "what did Mozart think about the basset clarinet?". Clearly he liked it, because he wrote such fantastic music for it. Besides the Concerto and Quintet, he also used it in La Clemenza di Tito and Cosi fan Tutte (basset clarinet in B-flat).

Some contemporary composers like it too, eg. Harrison Birtwistle, Thomas Ades and South African composers Michael Blake and Paul Hanmer.

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Caroline Smale 
Date:   2019-05-24 04:10

I feel that sometimes there is a problem when the basset notes of an instrument are wildly out of character with the rest of the scale, almost a "honking" timbre.
Of course whether this is mainly down to the player or the instrument is less easy to determine.
I feel that more recently made basset clarinets do seem to encourage a more even scale throughout the range.

I wonder if the limited number of basset instruments a player has to choose from also plays into this, compared to the vastly larger selection of Bb/A clarinets a professional has to compare and choose from.



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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2019-05-24 05:49

To add to Liquorice's list of Mozart's pieces for basset clarinet, the extant autograph score fragment of his quintet in Bb for clarinet and strings K. 516c (or Anh. 91) is written for the Bb basset instrument.

I suspect those who think they do not like the basset clarinet have never played the Mozart Concerto on one. On the basset clarinet, the distinct and separate characters in the concerto are in plainer view.
In his critique of Carey Bell's Mozart Concerto performance, a critic touches on those characters.
(http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Music-review-Bell-exhibits-clarinet-mastery-3287520.php)

"That in turn freed him to people the concerto with a handful of distinctive characters. In the first movement, when Mozart sets up dialogues between the upper and lower registers of the clarinet, Bell underscored the point by giving each voice a separate identity.
It wasn't just a matter of range and dynamics but of color, shape and intonation as well - all conjuring up the image of two people in conversation. And once the conversation was over, Bell pulled out a third voice, a more straightforward one that unmistakably represented the omniscient narrator."

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2019-05-24 16:57

>> In his critique of Carey Bell's Mozart Concerto performance, a critic touches on those characters. >>

It would be great to hear his performance. I notice that the critic doesn't say whether or not he's using a basset clarinet.

I wrote elsewhere about the operatic nature of the piece:
Quote:

I have myself come to consider the Concerto to be a much more operatic piece than I did a couple of decades ago. We know that by 1791 Mozart had decided that his future lay in writing operas, because he said so. Therefore it is no surprise that in K622 there are several passages where he has the different registers of the instrument engage in a dramatic dialogue.

One of the best of these, to my mind, is the passage in bars 115-123 of the first movement. Mozart has already called our attention to the idée fixe of the work -- namely the number three. In addition to his ubiquitous three-note figures, this is instanced by the falling or rising third, and by the use of that third in both legato and staccato form. (It's amusing to note the two fragmentary versions that appear in the violas at the end of bar 2 of the solo entry, and in the cellos at the end of bar 4.)

The passage in question juxtaposes the falling, filled-in G/E third (notated pitch) in the clarinet register with the separated EGE three note quaver phrase in the chalumeau register, followed a bar later by the G/E third in separated crotchets.

It's as though a female character is pleading with a male character -- perhaps a young woman trying to win her stubborn brother round to her choice of partner? (They're brother and sister because they both belong to the 'Three' family, you see:-)

First we have the female, cajoling legato version of the falling third, leading to a version of the clarinet's second theme; which is answered definitely -- I'd say in the negative -- by the male version, separated, two octaves lower. She tries again, only to receive the same answer. This provokes an outburst, first diatonic triplets leading to a reiteration of the third a fourth higher (C/A), then chromatic triplets, and then semiquavers, all leading to C/A, and finally to C/A/F# in the pause bar. A woman in love will have her way!
The bit about violas and 'cellos:
Quote:

It's amusing to note the two fragmentary versions that appear in the violas at the end of bar 2 of the solo entry, and in the cellos at the end of bar 4.
...is rubbish; it's second violins both times:-(

Tony

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: ruben 
Date:   2019-05-24 17:28

Caroline: would the basset notes be less "out of character" on a period instrument? Thank you!

rubengreenbergparisfrance@gmail.com
JL-Clarinette

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2019-05-24 18:25

Before a theory of basset notes being more in character on a period instrument gets developed, we must remember that no historical basset clarinet of the type played by Anton Stadler still exists today. All of the "period" basset clarinets for Mozart used today are speculative reconstructions.

In my experience playing on basset clarinets, I'm always surprised when listening back to a recording at how much louder and more present the basset notes are than what I thought they were when I played them. Perhaps it's partly because those notes are coming out of the instrument further away from my ears that the usual low register notes? Or perhaps it has something to do with the unusual sense of resistance playing on such a long and narrow pipe? In any case, I always have to remind myself not to force the low notes.

I also note that suddenly having extra low notes feels like quite a novelty at first. Some players are clearly so enamoured by this that they always play the low notes as if it were some special event, rather than an integral part of the instrument. Perhaps this is where some people's dislike of the basset clarinet stems from?

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-05-24 19:36

The only live performances I've heard on a basset clarinet used a standard A clarinet with an extension. I didn't hear the acoustical effect we're talking about here, but I sit in a seat that's quite a distance from the stage, where the orchestral blend is quite good but some of the raw amplitude I know the orchestra is producing is damped somewhat. I'm curious (a) if this quality of the basset notes' being "wildly out of character with the rest of the scale" is true of both the extensions and the instruments built as basset clarinets to begin with, and (b) whether, Liquorice, your experience when listening to a playback of a recording is consistent with what is heard in a concert hall, where the listeners are considerably farther away than the mics in a recording session?

Karl

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2019-05-24 19:59

I have made several crude basset clarinets and currently own a Ridenour basset clarinet. Personally I notice no difference in tone between the notes of the lower chalumeau register and the basset notes. From an acoustics perspective there should be no difference, other than pitch of course. The bore down to around the low D tonehole is generally a consistent diameter on most instruments and below that there is generally the same flare you would find on any standard French clarinet.

My theory on why basset notes tend to sound different is because players are emphasizing these notes either intentionally or without thinking about it. The basset notes are arguably the most important notes on the instrument, so it makes sense why players would try to emphasize these notes.

-Jdbassplayer

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2019-05-25 07:02

>I notice that the critic doesn't say whether or not he's using a basset clarinet.

Bell did not use a basset clarinet. Yet the critic mentions the three characters nonetheless.

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Jeff Chan 
Date:   2019-05-25 09:32

The OP asks about other works for basset clarinet. I recently noticed a concerto by Elena Kats-Chernin entitled Ornamental Air, written in 2007. Maybe other composers will add to the basset clarinet repertoire!

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2019-05-25 11:18

I realise that I wasn't clear. I don't believe that the low notes on basset clarinets are "wildly out of character with the rest of the scale" (I own 3 basset clarinets). Sometimes they may sound that way because:
1. The player isn't aware of how loudly they are actually coming out
2. The player is not used to the feeling of resistance of these extra notes at the end of a narrow pipe and therefore forces them too much
3. The player likes to emphasise these notes because of their novelty

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 Re: What do you think of the basset clarinet?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-05-25 18:43

To state the obvious, Stadler's basset and a modern basset are probably two very different experiences, in large part because of the differences in weight and tonal concept. "Probably" because I've never seen, let alone tried, a reproduction of what Stadler's instrument might have been like. Played on a modern one at S&S. The low notes sounded fine and in character with the rest of the instrument--what you'd expect from Seggelke--but it was just massively heavy. It would take a lot of work to get around on it in an agile way, and I'm not fond of using a strap. From the recordings I've heard, I don't really feel like the low notes add anything indispensable to the piece. It sounds fine to me on a regular A, and the player makes a lot bigger difference than the instrument. It's a lot to spend for two pieces. On the operatic character of the concerto, a couple places sound to me like possible references to Don Giovanni, both from Leporello, which might be sort of how Mozart saw Stadler. In particular, the four repeated notes remind me of "Ta ta ta ta."

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