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Basset clarinet

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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. Typically a basset clarinet has keywork going to a low (written) C, as opposed to the standard clarinet's E or E♭, and is most commonly a transposing instrument in A, although basset clarinets in C, and B♭ also exist, and Stephen Fox makes a "G basset clarinet/basset horn". 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. Mozart wrote his Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K622 for this instrument, though in part it is based on an earlier fragment of a Concerto for Basset Horn in G, K584b. Another famous piece of music featuring the basset clarinet occurs in Mozart's last opera, La clemenza di Tito. Vitellia's final aria (Non più di fiori) in Act II of this opera is actually a duet featuring the soprano voice and the basset clarinet as obbligato.

The earliest record of the basset clarinet is a concert program from 1788, in which the instrument is called a "Bass-Klarinett" but from the description is clearly a basset clarinet; the term "basset clarinet" was in use by 1796, though it may originally have referred to the basset horn.

Despite Stadler's advocacy the instrument did not become a regular member of the orchestra. During the 19th and early 20th centuries only a few basset clarinets were produced, for performances of Mozart pieces, and no further music was written for the instrument. However, beginning in the mid 20th century, interest in performing on original instruments prompted the basset clarinet's revival. A few modern composers, among them Bill Sweeney and Harrison Birtwistle, have written works featuring basset clarinet; Joan Tower's 1988 clarinet concerto is written to be played on either basset or standard clarinet.

Many clarinet makers now produce basset clarinets, or extended lower joints which will convert a standard clarinet to a basset clarinet.

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This article was started using a Wikipedia clarinet article
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