An Unrevealed Basset Horn model

I am very lucky to have been involved in a concert with Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra on the 19th September, conducted by Catherine Larsen-Maguire. We performed Mozart’s Serenade in B flat Major, K361 ‘Gran Partita’, a brilliant masterpiece writtten for 13 wind instruments between 1782 – 1784.

I played the second basset horn part. Basset horn is an instrument belonging to the clarinet family, most typically tuned in F, that reaches down to written low C. It has mostly been used to play music from Classical period, but some 20th century composers such as Boulez or Stockhausen have written music for this instrument too.

Basset horn started to be played around 1760. Its several models and appearances have lead to some similarities with other clarinets from the family, such as the Alto clarinet and basset clarinet (the instrument for which Mozart wrote his Clarinet Concerto K622). Fingering positions for the basset horn are the same as for the Bb clarinet, apart from sounding a 4th above the actual fingering, which can be a bit confusing.

I had played basset horn in the past, but don’t own such instrument myself, so this orchestra provided me one a few days before the concert. To my surprise, it was quite an old and unique Uebel basset horn model with a wooden bell pointing down. I presume it was made around 1970 by F. Arthur Uebel, a Öhler system clarinet maker in Germany.

With reference to my last post about ‘Clarinet Systems’, my Bb, A and bass clarinets are all Buffet models (French system), so playing this Uebel basset horn was a bit of a challenge. Especially taking into account that the first basset horn player was using a Buffet brand-new model (French system). The sound of this Uebel basset horn was darker, with more resistance in the blowing, so I found it quite tricky to stand out when playing solos or even blend with the rest of the ensemble.

My curiosity for this instrument has made me research a bit deeper about the maker and origin of this particular model. Interestingly enough, I found quite a lot of models but not a single one made by Uebel with the same features.

Apart from their noticeable evolution regarding material and number of keys added, their main differences are mostly the shape and material of the crook and the bell. Below I include some of the most distinctive and historical basset horns ordered chronologically in order to notice the diversity in appearances. From these pictures, the one that most resembles this Uebel basset horn lent to me is the sixth one, made by F.A. Heckel in Germany.




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