Most probably I should preface this review with a bit about this large Czech company comprised of four factories and upwards of a thousand employees, manufacturing all instruments, and as many different types of clarinets and fingering systems that exist. A few years past I purchased a full-boehm Amati instrument from a fellow in Australia at an advantageous price and found it to be really quite a good horn, totally in adjustment and well made. Unfortunately by that time, the full boehm was an instrument that was a bit too heavy for my comfort. Whenever I do pick it up, it plays well and has remained in adjustment. My impression then of this large Czech company is of a well organized group of four comopanies who make serious and well made instruments of all types and qualities.
I was very impressed when first I received the ACL 351, series II C clarinet. Impressed with the finish, the intonation and the perfect adjustment. Even the case was impressive . I really like the first truly adjustable thumb rest I have seen on a new clarinet. It is at its mid-position and by opening the screw one can place it either above the ordinary position or below by the same amount. Most thumbrests are simply only able to go in one direction and aren’t placed correctly, including even the Selmer Paris , supposedly the industry stndard. I learned to play on the Bb clarinet, first a metal instrument, rented for three months and then a series of either rented or purchased wooden clarinets, always in the key of Bb/Naturally I learned almost immediately that there was a partner to the Bb clarinet, and that was the A clarinet, pitched a halfstep lower and at that time, was a lot more difficult to play.We youngsters got A clarinets more to have them and to lug them around in a neat double case, more than to play on them. My first set of clarinets were Selmers. Their trademarks had been scratched off as they had been imported somewhat “under the table”, so to speak. I remember the A with a fair amount of difficulty associated with the supporting of the sound.
I mention these two clarinets as the ones that students learned to play. There was never any discussion of the clarinet in C.There was however a special attention to transposing. Whenever we encountered a part written for a clarinet in the key of C, we were taught to transpose the part. There are C clarinet parts in some Beethoven Symphonies and Piano Concertos, and of course the C clarinet in the Symphony Fantastique by Berlioz, but these were traditionally simply transposed. The Berlioz Symphony in the last movemrnt, Dreams of a Witches Sabbath hs a long and difficult solo passage written for the clarinet in C, which is usually always transposed to Bb.
Even thouggh I have played hundreds of C parts, both Clarinet and Violin and Flute, I always played them on the Bb. The transposition becomes second nature and did with me as it did for anyone serious about the clarinet.
I cannot determine where the practice started of the manufacture of clarinets in C. I have always been tightly connected to the business of the industry and the Clarinet in C just simply escaped me.
I became interested, reading about the clarinet. Frankly, I decided to buy one simply to try, to see what the thing sounded like , and that was all.
As it is probably well-known I am completely skeptical about the clarinet industry, as I see it as that, an industry, simply dedicatd to selling clarinets….and mouthpieces, and cases, and ligatures, and every variety of fruit-cake stuff that one may attach to his or her clarinet for whatever reason you can think of. Basically it is a healthy way of making money. Except for getting in the way of a students progress when the student suddenly goes on an expensive quest which can result in an expensive clarinet or mouthpiece or other accessory which is or can be the road to nowhere. I am especially wary of cults of clarinet players who collect and espouse clarinets of a certain make, and only that make and revile every other clarinet made. This practise has been somewhat diminished of late, yet remains in existance to the detriment of the peddlars and certainly to those students who are directed to this road to pursue the golden clarinet, the magic mouthpiece, the setup which will lead the student to nowhere, or perhaps someplace quite dangerous.
Yes, I find it a hurtful process, costly and serving no prpose other than to enrich….but only those who sell the items, and not necessarily those who buy .
But let us return to the C Clarinet. Yes, it is an instrument made by many if not all of the companies making clarinets, but more importantly it is capable of making a rather distinctive sound. The lowest register does not quite equal the grandfatherly lows of the Bb or the A; rather that sound is somewhat more refined and lyrical. It is almost like a longer clarion register up unti the altissimo which is only a bit thinner that that of the Bb.
The sound is very pleasant and the thing which is really wonderful is that you use the same mouthpiece used for your other clarinets, a very special attribute in the Cs favor.
I also really do like the size of the instrument and I find it more facile to play than my Bb or A. I like the staccato produced on the C and I find that legato passages have an interesting quality, somewhat different than that of the Bb.
I have owned this Amati instrument for about a month, bought it brand new and it played extremely well right out of the box, an attribute which I consider important. I find the workmanship to be excellent, as is the tuning and the plating to be first class.
Currently I am playing the Schubert Sonatinas, Opus 137, for violin and piano. Years and years ago, I had performed one on the Bb clarinet,but on C the sonatas are much more accessible. Perhaps I hear better in a C instrument, (I have always wondered about that) But, when I mentioned in my initial article that playing the C is a wonderul experience, I can only reiterate that statement. Everything is a little easier, or perhaps it is a little different. After 60 years of playing the Bb, A and Eb and the Bass, I find the clarinet to be sheer fun and urge one an all to “get into it”. The advantages are obvious, the cons are minimal
Much Instrumental music began hundreds of years ago without designated instruments, merely parts.I have played so many parts of C instruments on Bb that I seen no problem in playing the C clarinet for them.
Besides that it is great fun/ The Amati-Kraslice ACL 351 , second series is a fine clarinet. I had to shave a bit of cork off the side Bb/eb, but that took perhaps one minute.
This is the least expensive or them all, I heartily recommend it!