The Mozart Clarinet Concerto and the Basset Clarinet

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,



2 Responses to The Mozart Clarinet Concerto and the Basset Clarinet

  1. […] Anton Stadler, who gave the first performances of the quintet and the concerto using the basset clarinet, which extended the instrument’s lowest register by four semitones. Colin Lawson uses a […]

  2. […] Anton Stadler, who gave the first performances of the quintet and the concerto using the basset clarinet, which extended the instrument’s lowest register by four semitones. Colin Lawson uses a […]

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