A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Basset-Horn

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BASSET-HORN (Fr. Cor de Bassette; Ital. Corno di Bassetto; Germ. Bassethorn).

A tenor clarinet standing in F, furnished with additional low keys and a prolonged bore, enabling it to reach the octave C, which is equivalent to F below the bass clef
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \clef bass { f,4 } }
. With the exception of the last four semitones thus added, the instrument is in all respects a clarinet, and the necessary transposition will be found under that heading. These four notes are obtained by means of long keys worked by the thumb of the right hand, which, in the ordinary clarinet, has no other function besides that of supporting the instrument. For convenience of handling, the instrument has been made in various curved shapes; with a bend either between the right and left hands, or in the upper part just below the mouthpiece. occasionally it has been made with a bore abruptly bent on itself like that of the bassoon. Its compass is more extensive than even the clarinet, and its tone fuller and more reedy.

Mozart is the composer who has written most for this instrument. In one great work, his 'Requiem,' it replaces the clarinet, there being independent parts for two players. Perhaps the finest instance of its use is in the opening of the 'Recordare.' In his opera 'Clemenza di Tito' it is also employed, and a fine obbligato is allotted to it in the song 'Non piu di fiori.' In his chamber music there are often parts for two or even three bassethorns.

Mendelssohn has also written for it, especially two concert-pieces for clarinet and bassethorn, op. 113 and 114, intended to be played by the Bärmanns, father and son, with pianoforte accompaniment. Other composers have occasionally employed it, but it is to be regretted that it has never taken so prominent a place in orchestral music as its fine tone and facility of execution entitle it to hold. It is often confused with the Cor Anglais, or English horn, which is an oboe of similar pitch to the Bassethorn.

[ W. H. S. ]