The Mozart Clarinet Concerto and the Basset Clarinet

August 21, 2012

K622 is one of Mozarts final completed works, and his final purely instrumental work (he died in the December following its completion). The concerto is notable for its delicate interplay between soloist and orchestra, and for the lack of overly extroverted display on the part of the soloist (no cadenzas are written out in the solo part).The Mozart Clarinet Concerto,K622 is considered to be the most beautiful expression of Classical thought in a concerto. Purity of form and of melody are the key to its transparency and to its universal reverence. . That first statement present a quick study of the players entire musical existance. It is the work that all clarinet auditions within symphony orchestra begin. All players auditioning will use the clarinet in A. It is a rather wonderful beginning for the committee hearing the auditions because the transparency of the melody reflects all of the highlights wanted by the committee. Any slight difference in articulation, any rhythmic deviation is immediately noted, whether outstanding or otherwize. Usually, the first complete statement of the main theme, up to the A Major Cadence is heard by the committee.
The Basset Clarinet is a clarinet, similar to the usual soprano clarinet but longer and with additional keys to enable playing several additional lower notes, actually, a major third lower.Typically a basset clarinet has keywork going to a low (written) C, as opposed to the standard clarinet’s E or E♭ (both written), and is most commonly a transposing instrument in A,. The similarly named basset horn is also a clarinet with extended lower range, but is in a lower pitch (typically F); the basset horn predates, and undoubtedly inspired, the basset clarinet.
The basset clarinet was most notably associated with the clarinet virtuoso Anton Stadler (1753-1812), a contemporary and good friend of Mozart.( How much a friend I do not know.While I have heard that Stadler borrowed from Mozartwithout repayment, Stadler actually pawned the original autographed copy of the Concerto upon Mozarts death
Mozart wrote his Clarinet Quintet in A major, K581 and Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K622 for this instrument; the concerto is partly based on an earlier fragment of a Concerto for Basset Horn in G, K584b. The mezzosoprano Sesto’s aria (Parto, ma tu ben mio) from Act I of Mozart’s last opera, La clemenza di Tito, also features a basset clarinet obbligato. Franz Xaver Süßmayr(the very famous Sussmayer who completed the Requiem) also wrote a concerto movement for basset clarinet.
A basset clarinet is an A-clarinet with an extension of a major third It is in fact related to the basset horn in F or G. Because Mozart’s clarinet concerto is so important, the basset clarinet is quite an interesting instrument in spite of its small applicability. For the concert the extension must be chromatic and the shape of the Viennese bassethorn is not suitable for this. It has long been unclear how this instrument might have looked.
In a library in Riga in 1992 programmes were found of concerts which Anton Stadler (Mozart’s favorite clarinettist) has played there in 1784. Two of those programmes show an engraving of Stadler’s instrument. Presently, there are many basset clarinets available for those who wish to play the Mozart with the additional lower notes played as implied in the part. There are also additional extensions available for your A Clarinet. I am from an earlier time, during which the Mozart was just the Mozart, played on an ordinary clarinet in A. The only extension with which I have some familiarity is the Ridenour extension, available at this writing, as an extension to his A clarinet.
It is interesting that many are playing this Concerto on instruments or extensions that are contemporary in design and manufacture.I am also amused by the facts concerning sound and range. We are speaking of a major third, no other difference, but for some reason lots of folks are playing this instrument. To be seen with the Basset Clarinet? More gigs ? In order to play the concerto, only a slight octave displacement is necessary on an ordinary Clarinet in A.The story in this writing is the Mozart, and like any other clarinetist,it is a part of my life. I have played it with the Denver Symhony, Brian Priestman, conducting, with the Milwaukee Civic with Joseph Skornicka, The Westchester Chamber Orchestr, Jens Nygaard,with the Concordia Symphony, with John Corley, conductiinmg. (He was my first Music Director in Brookline High School between 1947 and 1951. He was a great musician, and director, taught us all good music). And I have taught the Mozart just as every other clarinetist has taught it to his students. What is absolutely outstanding about this writing is the Clarinet Concerto of Mozart. As I mention at the very end, to play just the first clarinet statement of the concerto with perfection and purity, every note perfect is the goal of a lifetime. Just think of Mozart, genius, God given to all of us and his piece. The Basset Clarinet? Buy ten or 20 , but play the opening and you will have made history.The photo in the upper part is the contemporary Lyrique Basset Clarinet, by Ridenour.
If you can play the first entrance of this Concerto with beauty of sound and excellent articulation, perfect length of notes, consider yourself gifted and blessed. Of course, the Concerto is written in three movements, and has no axctualy cadenza, and is also devoid of almost any ornamentation.
That’s is the thing, playing it absolutely intime, with lyric purity, each note its proper length, ends of phrases complete, never elongated, and in the best sense of your sound and the timbre of the instrument. I remember well Gino Cioffis performance of the Mozart with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as I was in the audience and at the time, a student of his. What I remember is his beauty of tone, his tuning, which was excellent, and the extreme length of the cadenza, which < it must be said, had nothing to do with Mozart. It was just quite long and very fast, having nothing to do with Mozart. I have searched for an air copy, as there was no recording and I cannot find one. Just as well.Not long after that performance, Cioffi was no longer permitted to record with the orchestra and was soon allowed to leave. In his time, I still feel him to be the fin est natural clarinetist, but not on that day. As far as a cadenza is concerned, Mozart did not write one. At the most, one usually plays the phrase from the second movement of the Clarinet Quintet. Of course, one can play what one wishes, but , just think of Mozart.

Stay well,



the scene for todays emerging clarinetist

August 18, 2012

Let us consider the world of the clarinet today, 2012. Your are a serious studentout there, doing all the Etudes, Method Books, Studies you can find. You are doing well. You’ve learned a bit about reeds, can begin to pick a commercial reed out of the box that may even play a little, waited a day or two, and found the reed nothing but a horror, tried only a small selection of mouthpieces, either chosen by your teacher, or by yourself from the well stocked shelves of the music store you frequent. Embouchure frustration has not visited you too much, you are still waiting for your staccato to improve, for your undertones to fall by the wayside, and you are beginnning to think you can play. You want to play, and not in the studio,wailing your warmup when anyone passes by. Your sound is the most important thing you have , it is what you profess, but outside of the concert or marching band, if you’re in University, where is a place for you to play? This is also closely connected to buying a pair of clarinets. By a “pair” we usually mean a “set” which pertains specifically to the traditional Bb and A clarinets, in a fitted double case. I shall never forget my first set of clarinets. They were for a student, a badge of honor, a handy acquisition, but what does that mean? A clarinet built in the key of Bb means that you can play practically all of the repertoire written for the clarinet as the tradition goes. So, let us move forward to today in the 21st Century. The two great masterpieces in the Chamber Music Repertoire for the clarinet are the Brahms and Mozart Clarinet Quintets ,written for clarinet and String Quartet. Both must be played with a A Clarinet. A Clarinet in Bb cannot be used as there is usually no low Eb key on a Bb and the both quintets were truly conceived for clarinet in A.( Andncidentally, the Mozart Concerto was written for a Basset clarinet, with an extra octave lower. While there are no Basset Clarinets with this extra octave in existence from that time, there is a strong implication in the very notation and, so there are these new “Old” nstrument around everywhere, but that is for another article.( The most difficult thing is to find the players who are capable of rehearsing and performing both pieces, or either one. The Mozart is difficult rhythmically, with some difficult passages for the fist violin,viola and cello. But the Brahms is another story as there must be many rehearsals with the String Quartet rehearsing alone, for bowings, nuances and general technical difficulties. We like to say excellence is certainly advisable, however the Brahms is quite difficult for the entire ensemble.
Will you be planning on performing either of these two works? If so, you need to have an A clarinet. I receive many requests for works for Graduate Recitals. Choros # 2 by Villa Lobos for Flute and Clarinet in A is a short, but difficult and entertaining work, as is the Woodwind Quintet by the same composer. The Schoenberg Woodwind Quintet is another work requiring clarnet in A as is Pierrot Lunaire, perhaps one the most important chamber works of the 20th Century, which also requires doubling on Bass Clarinet.
The Hindemith Quintet for Clarinet, Eb Clarinet and String Quartet is another great piece. This require Clarinet and Eb Clarinet. It is famous for having the first and final movements exactly reversed, (backwards), but the Eb movement is a difficult work unto itself and a real party, if you like to play Eb. All of the above are works requiring extensive rehearsal. I have performed them all and can certainly attest to the excellence of the works and the rehearsals needed. Have I included you or those like you in these comments? If so, you have to either own or have access to Bb, A, Eb and Bass Clarinets. There are many who simply do own just about all of the clarinet family. There are players who keep excellent mouthpieces for these instruments, as well as reeds and ligatures. But, while the Eb is also frequently used in the works of Richard Strauss and Wagner, perhaps the most advisable clarinet to own in your consort is the clarinet in C. Specifically, there are not a great number of ensembles for clarinet in C. But, this instrument is especially beautiful in timbre and you have access to every string quartet even written, hundreds of works from the Baroque Era. In fact, you are totally prepared, or you can always find players and you needn’t transpose if you have a C. I have a special fondness for this instrument because my instinct tells me that in general, it has a better natural scale and I prefer the timbre of the C clarinet. The C Clarinet is frequently used in the Beethoven Piano Concerti, instead of Bb and some pianists ask for the solos especially in the slow movements to be played on the C clarinet, probably the original instrument upon which they were performed. So, are we still looking for a pair of clarinets? If you are headed for a career in a symphony orchestra, certainly you need a pair in the traditional sense of a pair, Bb,and A.

But, let us face the fact that symphony Orchestra area almost a dying breed, or perhaps a bankrupt breed, especially within the US and Canada where funding is private. Donation, Ticket Sales, Touring are extremely important. The recording industry as such, is changing even as we speak. I was trained traditionally and wanted and did play principal in a Symphony, however most students who play and love the clarinet will not have that opportunity,or will find the competition in numbers alone staggering, and while the saleries are quite high, it is difficult to fit this kind of playing into a plan that includes a life with a family. One can love music in any part of ones life, but the pressure of a position in a major symphony almost rules out a family life. Compensation is high but competition is much intense and orchestras are being replaced , again, as we speak. The subject of purchasing instruments is one thing, but is no longer the wish of every good clarinetist. (My parents wanted me to be a dentist, and perhaps they were correct. I would have done much better in that line of work, but I wanted, and was able to have music. But we are here for only a short time, and we must think of what is practical and indeed, possible in that short time. Madamoiselle Boulanger said to me when I asked her how to justify compensation being so much smaller for a musician than many other professions? “One plays music because without music, one would prefer to die”. Certainly something about which to think. Certainly it is interpreted differently when heard by young ears, or when one is toward the end.

Stay well.


Choosing a second clarinet

August 12, 2012

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I am interested in acquiring a second clarinet to keep at a weekend home so that I may avoid carrying my instrument back and forth.

For background, I am an enthusiastic amateur clarinetist, and have played as an avocation for decades. I have a busy career with lots of travel so I take a lesson only about once a month and don’t practice as much as I’d like to, but I love playing intensely and it is central to my life. I play mostly jazz but also have some classical training. I play a Selmer 10S, circa 1980, with a Vandoren M30 mouthpiece and 3.5 reeds.

Both my jazz and classical teachers have recommend that I buy an Buffet R13 because of their success with the instrument, but they are not dogmatic. I admit to being curious as I have never really tried other instruments. I like my horn, but I have no basis of comparison. It’s all I’ve ever played and I’m used to it.

My question is: should I acquire the same type of instrument I play now or try something different? Further, I worry that if I like the second instrument better, I won’t want to play my original clarinet. Maybe I need psychiatric advice more than music advice!

Can you offer any guidance?



Dear JAC:
sure, I can offer guidance, because I have had the same problem, though exponentially. I too own a Selmer 10S, which is a quite wonderful instrument, which I bought “almost new”, found it to be excellent, playing it for a couple of years on a similar setup. though the mouthpiee at the time was a Van Doren M13, which I liked very much.When I changed mouthpieces, (another terminal desease),i I played every reed known to man, and some unknown, but probably always played or sounded similar,the sound, everything you do, is in your head, placed there for some reason unbeknownst to many or any. (Anyway, other mouthpiece played the mid-clarion a bit flat) But, I have done this same exercise more times than I can remember, always looking for something beyond the rainbow, usually tuning, or timbre. If you want to buy a second instrument that will always be different from your 10S, and I know you will never be confused, buy a Ridenour Ebonite instrument, the Lyrique, which is better in tune than almost anything , more even than anything, and will stand up to changing conditions better than any, and comparably speaking, is highly affordable, perfect for your weekend home, and because it is hard rubber, it needs much less maintenance than your S elmer. I would advise against an r13, because without a technician to choose it and fix whatever needs to be fixed, you have an accident waiting to happen. Yes, upon second thought, the ebonite lyrique will be a very good choice. (Psychiatric advice is advised prior to starting the clarinet)
Good luck with all.
stay well, sincerely,

A pair of (Leblanc) Clarinets

August 8, 2012

The story in this particular case is almost bizarre, or actually is indeed bizarre. All preferences for almost anything are highly opinionated, as is this . But my first experiences with the Leblanc name was frought with indifference, and then , shock. I am a (north American) clarinetist, US Citizen, but working and living in Canada. I have a fairly comprehensive view of the clarinet industry, and truthfully say that I was given a very false impression of the Leblanc Clarinet by the people at Leblanc, themselves. When I was hired to be principal in Milwaukee, one of the first things that happened was a call from the Gerneral Manager, Bob Zigman. He told me that he had received a letter from Leblanc, US office llocated in Wisonsin at the time. They had offered 25,000 as a donation to the Milwaukee Symphony if I woujld play Leblanc Clarinets and the Woodwind Quintet of the Orchestra would be called the Leblanc Woodwind Quintet of the Milwaukee Symphony.
At that time, I was probably the youngest princpal player in any US symphony In any event, I didn’t know what to do, and being a clarinetist, a young one, I was very nervous. I had no idea what would transpire in either case. I had absolutlely no experience with Leblanc at all.But, I knew of its reputation, which at the time, was truly negative., It was a reviled instrument in the US, mostly because the president of Leblanc, Vito Pascucci, was trying to enhance the reputation of his Leblanc clarinet. The first thing he did was to havw many of the new Leblancs rebored in order for them to have “a bigger sound”. Accordting to Tom Ridenour, who was then the chief designer for Leblanc, “they had no idea of how to rebore a clarinet, using mostly the incorrect reamers and scarring the bore, and ruining the intonation of the horns” There are still many of these old leblancs around. Just look in your bore. If it is visibly scarred, you may have a problem. All of the above went into my head when I heard of Leblancs offer to the Milwaukee Symphony and me.

I thought I had litle choice but to write to my teacher, Rosario Mazzeo, of Mazzeo Clarinet fame, whose clarinet I played and ask him what to do? He replied with a long letter, which said, not, No, never Since the orchestra manager had left it up to me, I said NO, emphatically. (In retrospect, that could have been a mistake). Years later, while teaching in Montreal, I used to frequent Arduinis Music Shoppe. Anytime they would have a new horn, I would take it and try it for a while It was acourtesy I was accorded. The horn I was gven to try was a Leblanc L27. I noticed several things about it which surprised me. First, with my tuner, it was absolutely in tune, starting from the low E, not flat all the way through the clarinet. I had taken the clarinet to actually criticize it, as everyopne did with all Leblancs at that time. I was shocked. In addition, the clarinet finger placement was or seemed slightly more close together, and favored my short fingers. I started to take it to rehearsals and was very pleased by the responses from other members of the ensemble(s), which were uniformly com plimentary. Better sound, better in tune, more closely allied and aligned in timbre.Nothing derogatory. I kept it out for a long time and played several concerts of chamber music with it. I started to really admire this L27. That was my first experience with Leblanc. A few years later, I saw an ad for a set of Leblanc Opus Clarinets from the principal n the Kansas City Symphony. I bought them and played them for several years, met Ridenour through Leblanc and was introduced to his hard rubber clarinet. As I have aleady stated the ebonite, not a new material , was designed perfectly from the standpoint of intonation and timbre.Frankly, I sold the set of Opus because I needed the money at the time. These were the best intune instruments I had ever played.The Brahms Quintet in the Recording section of this site was recorded on my Opus A. Check it out.So too, is the Jan Jarczyk and the Copland Sonata.
Stay well.
best, sherman

A Pair of (Ridenour)Clarinets

August 7, 2012

Of the many many clarinets designed by Tom Ridenour, I bought and tried most because they were amazingly consistent, and I must add, they were easy to acquire. At the time of most of my purchases, I had only recently heard of the avaiability of a hard rubber clarinet, and, WWBW were almost giving them away for under 6 hundred dollars, as I remember. I simply could not get over how very well in tune they were ,compared to any other clarinet I had ever tried. The idea of using a clarinet to which the barrel wouldn’t fuse to the first joint after a couple of hours, and the basic stability of the instrument was startling. They all came with a couple of barrels in a strong case, and they were called Allora, but unquestionably, they were Ridenour clarinets, and there were few criticisms.They were the Ridenour clarinet. I used to take them to reherasals of chamber music as they blended and tuned as well or better than anything I had played. The altissimo F# was flat or “all over the place”, but everything else was fine. The low e was not flat, the throat in tune and the Bb in the throat just wasn’t a problem, and that was with each clarinet. Finally I purchased a Lyrique, which was perfect, but the clarinet that I still have and played the best is the Allora A clarinet, purchased for even lkess. He had told me that he prefers his C, and then his A, but this A is very fine, and it is again an Allora. In any event, the clarinet (s) are still available and are an excellent instrument. My only criticism is of the material itself, as it does not carry as well as does wood. Please, take that to the bank. It is beautiful and sounds great , but in a large ensemble, as the only clarinet, I would choose wood. Which is why I was so terribly pleased with the new Lyrigue G1, I think it is called. It plays closest to one of the finest clarinets ever designed, the Opus, which Ridenour designed for the Leblanc Company. The Lyrique G1 is an Opus, in my opinion, and my A clarinet is even better. Iwould hope that he ddevelops and A Lyrique G1, or 2, or whatever, but A clarinet in wood designed by Ridenour has to be on everyones list. Most of the readers are probably not going to play in the New York or Berlin Philharmonic, so needm’t worry about projection. If you are a director of a band, get your whole clarinet section on Lyrique, either rubber or the wooden one, which is a better instrument, as was my Opus, of wich I owned a pair. They will be discussed in the last of these articles, a pair of (Leblanc) clarinets. Ridenour deserves an award for his designing gifts and for the consistency of his hard rubber instruments.My only criticism outside of the altissimo F#, are the thumbrest on the hard rubber instruments, which is placed badly, so that your fingers will brush past the fork F# key. It is also too narrow, and finally, happens to be heavy, though too narrow for my thumb. It also doesn’t really adjust as far as it should. One should be able to have the rest adjust at the medium position for your normal playing position, and it must be truily adjustable up or down. The Ridenour doesn’t adjust that much. Also that Stars Wars register key is simply an imnvitation to a very weird dance for your fingers, at least mine. Still, a great horn.
Keep practicing . Stay well, sherman

Another(Selmer) pair of clarinets

August 7, 2012

If you ask anyone in the industry, you will hear that the Selmer name has the most integrity of any maker . The integrity is and has always been felt right into the horns themselves. I have been a clinician, or had been (for 30 years) and yes, I have also played and own just about every Selmer made. For many years, I played a pair of full Boehm Selmer Mazzeo Clarinets,(Centered Tone) and found them to be the most perfect horns, as far as reliability is concerned. Every single additional articulation worked and really, never failed me. I actually played the Pines of Rome Solo, written for A clarinet on the Bb with total success, and found it easier. Why? Because with that system, you get to keep all or almost all of yourfingers down for most of the solo, and you do not have that interval of a 10th to traverse between the throat A and the clarion b . Anyway, that is another story. The Selmer Family of horns is and was my favorite for many years. I especially admire the Bass Clarinet and the Eb served me well in all of those interesting chamber music works, such as Pierrot Lunaire and the Hindemith Quintet,for Bb,crazy Eb the one with the second movement for a eb clarinet , and the last movement, the same as the first, though backwards. Selmer makes myriads of horns, always made as well and or better than the others. And the latest Signature is supposed to be really a superb horn and is being adopted by some special symphony players. The workmanship is better, more correct, feels good on the hands and is more intune than any other Selmer. The great difference between Selmer and Buffet, has always been the indefinable “ping” in the Buffet response, which I know and remember, but there were and are so many other nightmares of even ness and intonation that as I have mentioned, a good techy wil serve as a wife or partner ,if you’re so inclned, but is utterly necessary. “Live with your techy” would be a good bumper sticker for Buffet. If so, you have a great horn, if not the alternatives are plentiful. I used to vist the Selmer showroom and the factory with considerable frequency during the summers I spent in or near Paris. The luncheons with the Jean Selmer and the ride in the crazy Citroen was memorable. I still remember the room in the fctories where all the apprentices were, and the drink machine that dispensed wine. I also remember getting put down by the French guys at the Van Doren place where you can try reeds. My god, those guys had warmups that were truly off the charts, and they loved to play them for Americans playing all of those extra, as they called them, keys. I still say, they were not extra keys. They were all necessary, and they all worked, all of the time. One had to accept the Mazzeo premise, his “system” and believe in it, in which I did, and found it to be superior to anything I played at the time. My personal relationship with Rosie was always love/hate. but he was a great friend, espcially after I called to apologize, after an altercation. The worst such happened when I was playing the end of Til Eulenspiegel at a lesson. The were also playing it in the BSO that week. He kept saying , at the conclusion of the peice, “softer, softer”, and finally I said, “did you get softer yesterday?. The damn broke, the water came in and his wife wouldn’t speak to me, but I sopologized and all was well.
This whole clarinet business has one important lesson for all clarinetists who are thinking about buying a pair of clarinets. Choose well, and take your time. My particular history involved all of the possible choices, and they all work. Next article will speak of the Ridenour Clarinet, with which I have had beaucoup experience. keep practicing.
stay well, sherman

A pair of(Yamaha) Clarinets

August 4, 2012

Dear Mr Friedland

A tough one for you..If you could buy a new pair of clarinets what would you consider on the market today? I want to but have not got a clue. I am thinking of intermediate to pro.
Your advice will be appreciated. sincerely, IH

Dear IH:
Your question must be difficult as it is not an easy choice for someone to consider all of the many ramifications in the business of purchasing a new pair of clarinets. A first consideration for anyone may be the amount you would pay for a set of new clarinets, or in some cases, it could be totally immaterial. It all depends upon your circumstances. Ruling out available finances for they differ for everyone, perhaps the first things to observe will be the number of different available makes of clarinets and their general position within the marketplace.Look forthe most highly regarded clarinet maker and their general reputation. Look for the maker who produces the most clarinets on all levels . Levels of clarinet manufacture always turn into a group of statements made, usually describing indefinables, those being beauty of tone, beauty of just about anything, testimonials by performers, which in the main, should be avoided unless you know the person and/or know his or her playing. Every clarinetist has strong opinions, and also has a certain level of performance, and every clarinetist employed professionally, can play the clarinet very well. So, make your comparisons by the number of players with whom you are familiar, and attempt to arrange them is some order . Your choices will be made depending on the numbers of performers, their preferred instrument, the general reputationof these players, and finally, the make and model of clarinet which seems to be their choice.

In every example and case, you will eventually find that most fine players generate around one or two specific brands and models of clarinets. One will always be Buffet, general the name used as a benchmark of clarinet names.
When we buy tissues for our nose, we frequently use KLEENEX, which of course, is a brand, and has been substituted for every type of tissue. In the realm of the clarinet, that name has been Buffet for many years.But ,if you are a discerning person and/or musician, you must know that this is the most inconsistent clarinet made, with enormous variances in every aspect of performance, from manufacture and quality of sound and dependability. The fine players who play Buffet are all quite excellent, but it is a garanty that they all have technicians whom they see,probably initially on a daily basis; to tune, to voice, to adjust, to repair their instruments. And of course, a pair of these clarinets new are mostly highly prohibitive for many of you, if not all. Some of these clarinet have been tweaked to impressive excellent results, but they will cost more than ten thousand dollars for the pair. I myself, find that highly excessive.

But this is your choice, and your money. You asked my opinion and based upon the above, and what I actually think would be the best choice, based upon the extreme playability and rather high quality of manufacture, and the fact that I have played or owned almost all of the various models made by this company, my suggestion is that you investigate the high end of the Yamaha clarinet product. It is the CSG Series. I would also suggest that you try this special plating they offer. It is gold, mixed with nickel and copper. Largely a matter of opinion, many prefer the way this plating responds.

You will find that these are very consistent instruments, better tuned than any Buffet or even Selmer. Certainly there are other fine clarinets, but the pair of these will afford you the best sound, intonation and a very good buy.

Most sincerely,