Basset clarinet

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Basset clarinet

en .: basset clarinet it .: clarinetto di bassetto frz .: clarinette de basset

classification Woodwind instrument , clarinet family
Range basset clarinet.png
written down
Sound Basset Clarinet A.jpg
Basset clarinet in A, sounding

inventor Theodor Lotz and others
Time of origin from 1770
Related instruments Clarinet , alto clarinet , basset horn , clarinet d`Amore
Musician Sabine Meyer , Charles Neidich , Vlad Weverbergh, Sharon Kam , Martin Fröst , Shirley Brill
Manufacturer Schwenk & Seggelke , Herbert Wurlitzer , Leitner & Kraus , Buffet Crampon , Selmer Company , Stephen Fox, Backun Musical Services
More pictures
Commons : Basset Clarinet  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

The basset clarinet is a clarinet in A or B tuning (very rarely also in G or C tuning), the range of which has been increased in depth by a longer lower piece: first of all, the root note is notated C (small octave), and In the further development in such a way that chromatics became playable, i.e. notated around the tones E-flat, D, C sharp, C and occasionally B (major octave). These tones create a deep sound that is reminiscent of that of a basset horn .


The earliest preserved instruments in Paris and London museums date from 1770. The basset clarinet, like the basset horn, was invented several times in a timely manner, but in different designs, in different moods and different instrument names (e.g. invention clarinet, bass clarinet, clarinet d 'amour). The instrument used by Anton Stadler was invented and built around 1788 by the Viennese KK court instrument maker Theodor Lotz. Despite the similarity of the name, the basset clarinet can be distinguished from the one octave lower bass clarinet , which was developed in 1838 by the saxophone inventor Adolphe Sax , and from the basset horn in F, which is in between.

Anton Stadler played a basset clarinet in A for the first time at the world premiere of Mozart's clarinet quintet KV 581 on December 22, 1789 in Vienna and then also in Prague in 1791 at Mozart's clarinet concerto KV 622. An instrument tuned in B with diatonic basset tones was first heard in Vienna on December 20. February 1788. The at that time new, except for the right-angled spherical lintels ( love foot ) and the slightly curved pear, elongated Viennese design of the instrument (see sketch on the concert ad) had its predecessor developed by Theodor Lotz for Anton Stadler Basset horn. Lotz's invention belongs to the series of typical experimental instrument creations of the 18th and 19th centuries.

After Mozart's death it became very quiet about this instrument, it was lost, so to speak, sh. below the video "Mozart's lost Clarinet". From Mozart to the present there are hardly more than 60 compositions for this instrument.

Nonetheless, the basset clarinet has gained in importance again since the world-famous clarinetist Sabine Meyer had Herbert Wurlitzer make a modern basset clarinet in A for her in 1984 , and since then has played the clarinet quintet and the clarinet concerto by Mozart in reconstructed versions with again lower passages play and then later other well-known solo clarinetists followed, e.g. B. Alessandro Carbonare, Martin Fröst , Sharon Kam , David Shifrin , Kari Kriikku, Colin Lawson and Antony Pay. The American clarinetist Charles Neidich , the Italian Luca Lucchetta, the Dutch Vlad Weverbergh and the Swedish Stefan Harg, all committed to historical performance, play Mozart on replicas of Stadler's basset clarinet. Also in performances of Mozart's opera La clemenza di Tito in the aria of the Sesto "Parto, ma tu ben mio" (No. 9), the prescribed solo basset clarinet in Bb is increasingly used instead of a normal clarinet, as is the case in concert performances of this aria , so at the performances of the opera 2017 in Salzburg and 2018 in Amsterdam with the clarinetist Florian Schüle on stage. This instrument is seldom used in jazz and klezmer music. The German jazz clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann plays a Bb basset clarinet by Harald Hüyng.


The construction of a modern basset clarinet can be completely stretched (straight), like a normal clarinet, see the photos below on the right. In terms of sound, however, a cup is more advantageous, which is aligned slightly upwards and forwards via an angled adapter, see photo in the top right of the info box. Charles Neidich had Schwenk & Seggelke build a basset clarinet with modern French mechanics, which, like the Stadler clarinet, has an angled pear and a love foot as a bell , which he aligns backwards for reasons of weight distribution, although for that Audience a forward alignment would be better, such as B. on the basset horn and the bass clarinet.

Fingering of the basset notes

S + S Bassett thumb plate.jpg
S + S Bassett station wagon (above) .jpg
S + S Bassett station wagon (below) .jpg

Fingering of the basset notes (Schwenk & Seggelke)

The special Bassett tones low C to Es are fingered with the right thumb on historical instruments and those of the German fingering system , as are the instruments of the French system made by some German manufacturers (e.g. Herbert Wurlitzer and Leitner & Kraus ). In contrast, the basset clarinets of the French system from other manufacturers (e.g. Buffet Crampon , France and Backun , Canada) are each equipped with two additional keys for the two little fingers. With the French system, the German manufacturer Schwenk & Seggelke optionally offers the thumb fingering and a combination of both fingering styles by pressing C sharp and C with the right thumb and Eb and D - redundantly - with both the right and left little finger, sh. Triple photo on the left. On instruments made by the Canadian manufacturer Stephen Fox, the low D is gripped with the left little finger and, if available, the low B with the right little finger, while all other basset notes are pressed with the right thumb.

Sound and range

Compared to the normal Bb or A clarinet, the sound and the piano of a basset clarinet are exceptionally beautiful, which even contemporary listeners admired when Anton Stadler played. The sound is slightly more muted, the high register less garish and the Chalumeau register from C1 down to E, the lowest note of the normal clarinet, more open and full. The expansion of the range downwards gave this type of clarinet its name. The pitch range notated from the small C to D4, sounding in the tuning in A or B from capital A to B3 or from capital B to C4, i.e. four octaves plus one tone.


  • Thomas Graß, Dietrich Demus: From Vincent Springer to Jiri Kratochvil. Information about Anton Stadler's Inventions clarinets and his basset horn. In: reeds. No. 1/2006, Musikverlag Müller & Gössl, Frechen, pp. 12–18.
  • Thomas Grass, Dietrich Demus: The basset clarinet. In: The basset horn. Its development and its music. 2nd Edition. Books on Demand, 2004, ISBN 3-8311-4411-7 , pp. 83-86.
  • Colin Lawson: Mozart: Clarinet Concerto. Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-521-47929-0 .
  • Colin Lawson: The basset clarinet revived. In: Early Music, November 1987, pp. 487-501.

Web links

Commons : Basset Clarinet  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Music catalog for basset horn and basset clarinet by T. Graß and D. Demus, as of March 17, 2017, pp. 170 to 176
  2. Basset clarinet, basset lower joint and conversion ( English ) Stephen Fox. Retrieved July 19, 2019.