Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 492 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
CLARINET and AULOS. The construction of the bass clarinet demands the greatest care. The bore should theoretically be strictly cylindrical throughout its length from mouthpiece to bell joint; the slightest deviation from mathematical accuracy, such as an undue widening of the bell from the point where it joins the body to the mouth of the bell, would tend to muffle the lower notes of the instrument and to destroy correct intonation. The origin of the bass clarinet must be sought in Germany, where Heinrich Grenser of Dresden, one of the most famous instrument-makers of his day, made the first bass clarinet in 1793. The basset horn (q.v.) or tenor clarinet, which had reached the height of its popularity, no doubt suggested to Grenser, who was more especially renowned for his excellent fagottos, the possibility of providing for the clarinet a bass of its own. One of these earliest attempts in the form of a fagotto, stamped " A. Grenser, Dresden," with nine square-flapped brass keys working on knobs, is in the Grossherzogliches Museum at Darmstadt and was lent to the Royal Military Exhibition, London 1890.1 Two other early specimens,' belonging originally to Adolphe Sax and to M. de Coussemaker, are now respectively preserved in the museums of the Brussels Conservatoire and of the Berlin Hochschule (Snoeck Collection). The tubes are of great thickness and the holes are bored obliquely through the walls. Both instruments are in A. Attempts were made in Italy to overcome the mechanical difficulties by making the bore of the bass clarinet serpentine. A specimen by Nicolas Papalini of Pavia 3 in the museum of the Brussels Conservatoire has the serpentine bore pierced through two slabs of pear-wood; the two halves, each forming a vertical section of the instrument, are fitted together with wooden pins. The outside length is only 2 ft. 31 in. and there are nineteen finger-holes. Joseph Uhlmann of Vienna 4 constructed a bass clarinet, also termed " bass basset horn," with twenty-three keys and a compass from Bb through four complete octaves with all chromatic ' See Captain C. R. Day, Descriptive Catalogue (London, 1891), No. 266, p. 125. a See Victor Mahillon, Catalogue descriptif, vol. ii. (1896), pp. 224-226, No. 940. 3 See Captain C. R. Day, op. cit. p. 123, pl. V. B. and p. 123, No. 262. ' See Dr Schafhautl's report on the Munich exhibition, Bericht der Beurtheilungscommission fiir Musikinstrumente (Munich, 1855), P. 153• semitones. These instruments resemble the saxophones (q.v.), having the bell joint bent up in front and the crook almost at right angles backwards, but the bore of the saxophone is conical. Georg Streitwolf (1779-1837), an ingenious musical instrument-maker of Gottingen, produced in 1828 a bass clarinet with a compass extending from Ab to F, nineteen keys and a fingering the same as that of the clarinet with but few exceptions. In form it resembled the fagotto and had a crook terminating in a beak mouthpiece. The Streitwolf bass clarinet was adopted in 1834 by the Prussian infantry as bass to the wood-wind .l Streitwolf's first bass clarinets were in C, but later he constructed instruments in Bb as well. Like the basset horn, Streitwolf's instruments had the four chromatic open keys extending the compass downwards to Bb. The tone was of very fine quality. One of these instruments is in the possession of Herr C. Kruspe of Erfurt,' and another is preserved in the Berlin collection at the Hochschule. It was, however, the successive improvements of Adolphe Sax (Paris, 1814-1894), working probably from Grenser's and later from Streitwolf's models, which produced the modern bass clarinet, and following up the work of Halary and Buffet in the same field, he secured its introduction into the orchestra at the opera. The bass clarinet in C made its first appearance in opera in 1836 in Meyerbeer's Huguenots, Act V., where in a fine passage the lower register of the instrument is displayed to advantage, and later in Dinorah (Le pardon de Ploermel). Two years later (1838) at the theatre of Modena a bass clarinet by P. Maino of Milan, differing in construction from the Sax model, was independently introduced into the orchestra? Wagner employed the bass clarinet in Bb and C in Tristan and Isolde,4 where at the end of Act II. it is used with great effect to characterize the reproachful utterance of King Mark, thus: —V<`T etc. P f I aim. P (K. S.)
End of Article: CLARINET
CLARINET, or CLARIONET (Fr. clarinette; Ger. Clarin...

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.