A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Bass Clarinet

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BASS CLARINET, an instrument of the same construction as the ordinary clarinet, but speaking an octave lower. The one most generally used is that in B♭, but Wagner writes for one in A, and a third in C has been employed. They are all slow-speaking hollow-toned instruments, rather wanting in power. The clarinet quality is less marked than in the acuter forms of the instrument, insomuch that they more resemble an organ pipe of bourdon tone. Meyerbeer, from his friendship with Sax, who paid particular attention to this instrument, has introduced it in his operas and other works. In the fifth act of 'The Huguenots' there is a fine declamatory passage for it in B♭, exhibiting its extreme lower compass:—

{ \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \time 4/4 \key f \major \tempo "Solo." \relative f'' { f4..( g32 f) e8( f aes f) | c2 ~ c8 r r4 | f,4..( g32 f) e8( f aes f) | c8 r aes4-^ g-^ f-^ | e2 ~ e8 g16 c e32[ g c e] \times 2/3 { g16 c e } g2 r8.\fermata bes,,16\f[ g'8 r16 f] | f2( e8) r16 bes,[ g'8 r16 f] | f2( e8) r r4 | des4. c8 \times 2/3 { c( bes aes) } \times 2/3 { aes( g f) } | e2 } }


In the Coronation March of the 'Prophète' it takes the melody, and in Auber's Exhibition March two such instruments are employed. It is written in the treble or tenor clef, the latter being better, as assimilating its part to that for the bassoon. Although occasionally of value for producing exceptional effects, it does not present any great advantages for orchestral use.

[ W. H. S. ]