Dismiss Notice
I hate the colors. What do I do?

At the far bottom of the page, on the left, is a menu or link that says, "Forum Default." Click on that and choose a different Style.

Basset Horn and Basset Clarinet

Discussion in 'Clarinets in Other Pitches' started by pete, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    10,751
    Likes Received:
    467
    Are actually two different beasties. And they're difficult to find good recorded music on the web from.

    So, here are some samples to get started:

    Mozart, Trio for Three Basset Horns. Nick Bucknall.
    Mendelsshon, Concertpiece 1, Movement III. Richard Spece trio. Period instruments.
    Mendelsshon, Concertpiece 2, Movement I. Richard Spece trio. Period instruments.
    Giovanni Simone Mayr, Bagattelle a tre for Flute, Clarinet, and Basset Horn. Richard Spece trio. Period instruments.

    Powell, Chicken Run (Basset Clarinet). Nick Bucknall.
    Mozart, Clarinet Concerto - Final Movement. Julian Bliss.
    Stravinsky, Symphonies of Wind Instruments. They all look to be playing basset clarinets, but the Eastman Wind Ensemble version features basset horn.

    ===========

    Buy a Basset Horn from Buffet (two models), or Selmer, Stephen Fox (classical reproduction), or Leblanc.

    Buy a Basset Clarinet from Buffet, or Selmer, Stephen Fox (customization), or Leblanc.

    =========

    Selmer's Archived Discussion on the basset clarinet and basset horn.

    =========

    Not wanting to offend the basset horn or basset clarinet players out there, but they sound kinda like ... regular Bb clarinets with a larger range, to me :).
     
    Tags:
  2. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Messages:
    2,494
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Beulah FL, a suburb of Pensacola
    Having played all three (alto and basset at some length, and basset clarinet for a couple of hours at an ICS convention), I can understand why the alto and basset are not day to day items. I didn't make up the comments "vapid" and "insipid", both of which have been applied to the alto horn; people with far more musical qualifications than me have dissed same. I also happen to agree, mind you...

    The basset horn is a bit more problematic. Here, the problem may be more a matter of a lack of skill in players of same, as much as it is due to the design and capabilities of the horn. There are good basset horn players (I was once pretty damn good on a Selmer one; alas, that is no longer the case), but they are thin on the ground. Many universities have basset horns in the horn room, and when the odd part comes along, they draft some poor schlub like me to cover it and then let it go until the next time. Most of us are having enough trouble getting a quality bass clarinet in our hands, much less a horn that gets used once in a blue moon.

    In any event, the demand for basset horns is largely governed by the number of parts available for them. Modern composers aside, there are precious few basset horn parts out there (and almost all of them are in small ensembles). Even throwing the moderns into the mix, it's just about as bad. (So too are the number of alto clarinet parts outside of concert bands and clarinet choirs.) Just as I don't own an Ab clarinet, I don't see much need for my own basset horn. It doesn't stop anyone else from buying one, but damn'd if most others don't buy them as well...

    I am also puzzled by the attention given to the basset clarinet. In some part, it's interesting because it's there, just like the Ab horn. Novelty has a fascination all its own for some. And, there is some legitimate call for a transistorized bass clarinet (for that's what you have in a basset clarinet), since there are some strong indications that Mueller played one back in the day. Modern mechanism made them possible (whereas Mueller's may have only barely worked, and thus died on the vine), and the Sax designed bass clarinet extended way down low served as a prototype.

    However, just because something can be done doesn't necessarily mean that it should be done. Many trombone players view the valve trombone as one of the greatest abominations onto God that has ever been perpetuated, and "octo-contra-bass" clarinets probably fall into that category as well. Some clarinet players feel this way about the saxophone, for that matter...

    (And, where are the voices calling for the clarinet in G? The clarinet in D, so that Strauss can be done "authentically"? Why doesn't anyone rise up when the contra-bassoon is used to play the ophecleide part in The Sorcerer's Apprentice?)

    There's more call for it now, since some modern folks have written works for same. However, most clarinet players are more likely to encounter a bass clarinet in C part than they are a A clarinet part to low C (outside of the "revised Mozart", of course). Does a .0001% chance of running across one of these parts merit the expenditure needed to carry a basset clarinet (not horn) home? Sales figures answer this one for me, just as they do for the bass clarinet in A. You can buy them, but precious few are doing so...

    Mind you, I feel much the same way about the bass clarinet in Bb to low C. When I bought mine, I had the bucks laying around (enough to buy it and a sailboat at the same time, thank you); had money be tighter, I probably would have gone with the short horn.

    And, I don't begrudge those who want to play basset horn, any more than I do those who want to play alto clarinet. There is a legit literature for basset horn, and if you've got the money (or have someone to bankroll you the cost), more power to you. (Alto clarinet has the added advantage of being available for next to nothing for a second-hand "pro" instrument; hard to argue with that economic factor.)

    But, like other "relics" (the serpent, to point one out), these horns have (by and large) been passed by in the grand scheme of musical things. The oboe 'd amore is a perfectly good instrument, but it (along with many other instruments, like the C melody saxophone) has been marginalized.

    Some of this is tone color (personally, I cringe whenever I hear the alto clarinet played, even when I'm doing it myself), some of this is economics (have you oiled your Ab and D clarinets yet this year?), and some of it is the milieu in which they operate (where, oh where, are all of those bass clarinet parts to low C?), but it ends up being (in practical terms) an accomplished fact, like it or not.
     
  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    10,751
    Likes Received:
    467
    C'mon, Leblanc only made ONE octocontra :).

    I do have a good question, though.

    The basset clarinet is a clarinet in A with a range to low C. Why would I want to buy a "standard" A clarinet instead of a basset clarinet, if the price is equal? Hey, even if the A clarinet is full Boehm, it's got a lot less keywork than the basset clarinet.
     
  4. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Messages:
    3,564
    Likes Received:
    99
    Location:
    Sometimes I feel like a frog playing a saxophone
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    10,751
    Likes Received:
    467
    That's pretty cheap, too.

    So, again, if prices are equal, why not a basset clarinet instead of a standard A clarinet?
     
  6. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    5,615
    Likes Received:
    199
    Location:
    Seattle
    That's what I'm wondering.
     
  7. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Messages:
    2,494
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Beulah FL, a suburb of Pensacola
    Nothing wrong with that, although I would reserve judgement on a Ridenour horn until I actually got to play it. However, perhaps 5% of the overall clarinet playing is done on A clarinets, so he's aiming that product at a limited universe. Why not just buy an extended range A clarinet and skip the second (regular) joint?
     
  8. Merlin

    Merlin Content Expert/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Messages:
    858
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Stratford Ontario
    The cost of Buffet's extended A clarinet is astronomical. Given an orchestral players frequent use of the A, the weight is unacceptable.

    The only basset clarinet I've played was a Buffet Prestige with basset conversion done by Steve Fox. It was great at what it did, but he even supplies a special tummy rest to support the instrument. Fine for one or two solo works, but a pain for regular orchestral work.

    I've played three basset horns. Two were Selmers that belonged to a university, but were both just rebuilt. One had a shorter neck, with a large bore mouthpiece; the other had a longer neck, with more like a standard clarinet mouthpiece. The first had a superior low register.

    Nearly forgot to mention the third - a Buffet. It was OK.
     
  9. zagor

    zagor

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
  10. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Messages:
    2,494
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Beulah FL, a suburb of Pensacola
    I've seen a few such horns (almost every one was a bass clarinet) like this one. My Swedish is a minimal, but the photos show the usual folding at the boot together with the beaten bell used to deal with the bell end of the instrument.

    I ran across one of these up in Vermont at, of all places, the former Vermont equivalent of VMI or The Citadel. Back in the good old days, there were three state schools subsidized by the Federal government (the United States Military Academy was an unsubsidized version of this). Apparently, each school was given a military "specialty" to develop by the War Department. VMI was the artillery school (I've seen this somewhere else as well), apparently The Citadel was the infantry one, and Vermont (which has very little level ground there for the asking) was given the cavalry mandate.

    (I am at a loss to figure this out, although Vermont (in the very old days) was one of the few northern states that supported the "old" Democratic-Republican Party. It may be that the plum assignment of a military school was thrown to them as a piece of early pork. Note that the other two were given to southern states, both bastions of the D-R Party.)

    The school (which is now a non-military operation) was originally located at Norwich VT and was known as Vermont Military Academy. (It has since moved to another town, and is now known as Norwich University.) Blessed with a beautiful quadrangle, and a near perfect setting on the side of a mountain, the place looks almost idlic, and it isn't until you see the ROTC operation on the back side of the campus (with a couple of M48A5 tanks parked outside) that you would know what the place used to be.

    We noticed the place passing through one day, as I glimpsed an old cannon set on a plinth next to the state highway passing through the campus. We stopped and investigated, finding that the piece in question was a trophy from the naval battle off Santiago, during the Spanish American War.

    As the S/A War is a particular interest of mine, we did some poking around on the campus and learned the history of the place. A number of famous military folks had attended the place, such as George Dewey (hence the significant number of S/A War trophies on campus), Grenville Dodge (engineer, railroad man and old warrior) and others. (The list of names on the plaques on the "walk of fame" on the campus is very impressive.)

    Anyway, using my lovely wife as a pry bar, we did a little digging around and found someone who knew more about the campus. He pointed out that there was a small museum and was more than happy to hunt down the key to let us take a look.

    Aside from a lot of military curiosities (Mussolini's clock-telephone among them), there were two things there to interest a musician. One was a very large photograph of the VtMI military band, taken in the 1930's went the place was still a military school. The entire band (kettledrums and all) were mounted (this was a cavalry school, after all), sitting on horseback like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, all done up in 1930's Army brown.

    The other was something seen in the photograph, that being a bassoon like folded up bass clarinet, complete with groddy mouthpiece. It was about two and one half feet long, equipped with a silver plated bell pointing upward, and with a short crook holding the mouthpiece at right angles to the main body of the horn.

    If you just saw the photo of the band, you probably would not have noticed the trooper with the odd looking bassoon in one of the back rows. Only upon close examination could you make him out, and the photo is none too clear that far back in the exposure.

    And, to be fair, the horn would be the best way to put a bass clarinet player on horseback. For a simple system horn (which is how I remembered it, and it would be in keeping with a locally manufactured item), it was very well made, apparently the product of a local Vermont maker from the markings.

    Unfortunately, I had shot off all of the film that I had on the multiple military relics present outside on the campus. From a Hotchkiss rotary six pounder (an anti-torpedo boat weapon imported for testing at the turn of the last century) to a half-battery of Armstrong mountain artillery (God alone knows why those were there), there was a lot to photograph...

    Since that time, I've not been back to the Green Mountain State, so I don't know the current status of this horn. However, I'm planning a trip up there by car next summer, so I'll see if I can get into the museum again and take a few photos.

    So, that Swedish find may be relatively rare, but it's not the only such beast on the face of the planet.
     
  11. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    10,751
    Likes Received:
    467
    VF "Cerveny" is owned by Amati (add your own accent marks). http://www.amati.cz/.

    In other words, it's Czech. Has been for 165 years :) (yes, I know the area could be considered German, depending on the decade).

    The design of this horn is somewhat familiar to me -- Octavins, I think, look simular and I'm relatively positive that I've seen an A. Sax bass clarinet that was close.

    Thanks for finding the horn, tho. I think I need to glom those pics!
     
  12. zagor

    zagor

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yeah, I know about amati, I´ve been visiting the homepage.

    About Swedish: the owner doesn´t say much more than the horn is maybe 100 years old, the body was broken but it has been repaired. It plays well, and an hard case will be shipped.

    Actually, I´m quite interested if the price stays that low...
     
  13. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Messages:
    2,010
    Likes Received:
    187
    Location:
    West Coast of Canada
    Every time I've read the title I see "Basset Hound", and wonder why are we discussing dogs? :confused: ... Geez...

    Anyway, back to the matter at hand, all this talk is making me miss my bass clarinet days. The alto clarinet that I was given by a friend, just doesn't do it for me...
     
  14. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Messages:
    2,494
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Beulah FL, a suburb of Pensacola
    ...nor for anyone else, I might imagine. There's a very good reason why the things (even professional level ones) are so cheap - few want to hear them played.

    It's amazing how much more useful the bass clarinet tone (weak clarinet register and all) is compared to the alto. Across all registers, the bass is the clear winner.

    I've heard it said that the alto horn blends well with the female voice, but on the few occasions that I've fooled around with one where a good female vocalist was available, I quickly (and as quietly as possible) went back to the bass (which blends almost perfectly, so much so that it's an integral part of many Broadway shows to place a counter melody played by a bass clarinet behind the solo female voice).

    Of course, that's what happens when you have a type of clarinet rationalized by someone who knew what he was doing (Sax), instead of trying to get by with the same opening for Bb and a register key (Klose).
     
  15. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Messages:
    10,751
    Likes Received:
    467
    6500 KR = $911 US (xe.com). I dunno. It's definitely eye catching.

    Could be high pitch. I also wonder about "body broken", as that could mean, "Playable ... but not in tune." The pictures show some pretty significant cracks.

    Also, I'm not sure about the fingering system ....
     
  16. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Messages:
    2,494
    Likes Received:
    30
    Location:
    Beulah FL, a suburb of Pensacola
    From the upper joint tone holes and visible linkages, and the standard "split" little finger keys on the lower joint, it appears to be some version of the Muller clarinet. I'd doubt that it's an Albert, but a German "simple" clarinet (i.e., without the Oehler plate on the lower joint (and with a thumb pad, of course) seems pretty likely.
     
Our staff's websites:


Loading...