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History::Bass clarinet

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History

Glicibarifono by Catterini, 1838.

There are several instruments that can arguably be considered the first bass clarinet. Probably the earliest is a dulcian-shaped instrument in the Museum Carolino Augusteum in Salzburg. It is incomplete, lacking a crook or mouthpiece, and appears to date from the first half of the eighteenth century. Its wide cylindrical bore and its fingering suggest it was a chalumeau or clarinet in the bass range.<ref name="vdm1987">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Four anonymous bass chalumeaux or clarinets apparently dating from the eighteenth century and having from one to six keys also appear to be among the earliest examples, and one in particular has been suggested to date from before 1750.<ref name="rendall">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref> However, the authenticity of at least one of these instruments has been questioned.<ref name="young1981">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

In the Munich Stadtmuseum there is an instrument made circa 1770 by the Mayrhofers of Passau,<ref name="young1981" /> who are often credited with the invention of the basset horn. It resembles early sickle-shaped basset horns, but has a larger bore and is longer, playing in low B. Whether this should be considered a low basset horn or a bass clarinet is a matter of opinion. In any case, no further work along this line is known to have been done.

A 1772 newspaper article describes an instrument called the "basse-tube," invented by G. Lott in Paris in 1772.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref> This instrument has not survived and very little is known of it. The article has frequently been cited as the earliest record of a bass clarinet, but recently it has been suggested that the basse-tube was in fact a basset horn.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>

The Klarinetten-Bass by Heinrich Grenser, circa 1793, had a folded, bassoon-like shape and an extended range, and was presumably intended to serve as a bassoon replacement in military bands. Desfontenelles of Lisieux built a bass clarinet in 1807 whose shape was similar to that of the later saxophone. It had thirteen keys, at a time when most soprano clarinets had fewer.

Additional designs were developed by many other makers, including Dumas of Sommières (who called his instrument a "Basse guerrière") in 1807; Nicola Papalini, circa 1810 (an odd design, in the form of a serpentine series of curves, carved out of wood); George Catlin of Hartford, Connecticut ("clarion") circa 1810; Sautermeister of Lyons ("Basse-orgue") in 1812; Gottlieb Streitwolf in 1828; and Catterino Catterini ("glicibarifono") in the 1830s.<ref name="vdm1987" /><ref name="rendall" /><ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> These last four, and several others of the same period, had bassoon-like folded shapes, and most had extended ranges. A straight-bodied instrument without extended range was produced in 1832 by Isaac Dacosta and Auguste Buffet.<ref name="vdm1987" /><ref name="rendall" />

Finally, Adolphe Sax, a Belgian manufacturer of musical instruments, designed a straight-bodied form of the bass clarinet in 1838. Sax's expertise in acoustics led him to include such features as an accurately-placed, large tone holes and a second register hole. His instrument achieved great success and became the basis for all bass clarinet designs since.

It should be noted that the instrument on which Anton Stadler first played Mozart's clarinet concerto was originally called a Bass-Klarinette, but was not a bass clarinet in the modern sense; since the late eighteenth century this instrument has been called a basset clarinet.


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