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The basset horn (sometimes written basset-horn) is a musical instrument, a member of the clarinet family.


[edit] Construction and tone

Like the clarinet, the instrument is a wind instrument with a single reed and a cylindrical bore. However, the basset horn is larger and has a bend near the mouthpiece rather than an entirely straight body (older instruments are typically curved or bent in the middle), and while the clarinet is typically a transposing instrument in B flat or A (meaning a written C sounds as a B flat or A), the basset horn is typically in F. Finally, the basset horn has additional keys for an extended range down to written C, which sounds F at the bottom of the bass staff. Its timbre is similar to the clarinet's, but darker and less brilliant. Basset horns in A, G, E, E flat, and D also were made; the first of these is closely related to the basset clarinet.

To confuse matters, the basset horn is not a horn; its name probably derives from the resemblance of early, curved or angled versions to a horn. The notion that it was invented by a person named Horn appears to be fanciful. Some of the earliest basset horns, dating from the 1760s, bear a maker's stamp claiming they were invented by A. and M. Mayerhofer of Passau, but while this claim has not been discredited, it remains unproved.

[edit] Repertoire

A number of composers of the classical period wrote for the basset horn, and the famous 18th century clarinettist Anton Stadler played it. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was by far the most notable composer for the basset horn, including it in his Maurerische Trauermusik (Masonic Funeral Music) K.477, his Gran Partita, his Requiem K.626 and several of his operas and chamber works. He wrote dozens of pieces for basset horn ensembles. Other early works for basset horn include a concerto for basset horn in G and small orchestra by Carl Stamitz, which has been arranged for conventional basset horn in F, and a concerto by Backofen.

In the 19th century, Felix Mendelssohn wrote two pieces for the basset horn, clarinet and strings (opus 113 and 114, string parts often arranged for piano). The instrument was largely abandoned until Richard Strauss took it up once more in his operas Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, and Capriccio, and several later works.

[edit] Other works

[edit] Basset horn soloists and ensembles

The Prague Trio of Basset-horns, based in the Czech Republic, has a repertoire of music (originally written for, or transcribed for, three basset horns) by composers including Mozart, Scott Joplin, and Paul Desmond.

[edit] Trivia

The Italian name for the instrument, corno di bassetto, was used by Bernard Shaw as a pseudonym when writing music criticism.

[edit] See also

  • Alto clarinet (a somewhat similar instrument, pitched one whole step lower)

[edit] External links

[edit] Recordings

This article was started using a Wikipedia article


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