Spanish School For Clarinet


As we already know the clarinet was invented in Germany at the beginning of XVIII century. This instrument was soon adopted by musicians in countries like France, England and Italy. The influence from the Italian opera in Spain during the XVIII century could have been how the clarinet was first introduced in Spain. According to records the clarinet is first mentioned as an instrument in the orchestra from 1780, but it may have been in use at an earlier time than this.

Historically speaking, Spanish society suffered a few significant changes during the XIX century. Joseph Bonaparte was named King of Spain in 1808 after Napoleon’s troops invaded this country. This provoked a Peninsular War until 1814 between Spain, France and Great Britain. Spanish music had significantly grown during the XVI – XVII centuries with composers such as Tomás Luis de Victoria, Francisco Guerrero, Cristóbal de Morales and Antonio de Cabezón, but somehow this political instability was starting to reflect in the arts.

For this reason Spanish musical tradition in the XIX century was very different to the ones in other European countries. Society was not knowledgeable about musical innovations taking place in the rest of the world. Musical forms such as the zarzuela (Spanish musical drama) and the pasodoble (duple-meter march also performed at bullfights) were the mainstays of entertainment for the Spanish audience during this period. Military bands, orchestras for theatres and music for chapels (nearly extinguished at the time) were also quite a tradition within XIX century culture.

It was not until the beginning of the XX century that symphonic orchestras started to appear in this country, which enabled an introduction to the Classical, Romantic and modern repertoire. Composers such as Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados and Manuel de Falla started to introduce new musical forms to the Spanish audience.

Within this historical context emerged the main clarinettists that so distinctly revolutionised the Spanish school for clarinet: Antonio Romero, Miguel Yuste, Julián Menéndez, Carmelo Bernaola and Vicente Peñarrocha.

ANTONIO ROMERO (1815 – 1886)

Antonio Romero is known as the founder of the clarinet school in Spain. It is quite admirable how he became such a successful clarinettist during the XIX century in Spain.

Romero started to learn the clarinet in 1826. Starting out with a 5-key clarinet then progressing on to Lefèvre’s 6-key clarinet (mentioned in my previous post). He studied from clarinet methods written by Lefèvre, then Gambaro and Baermann.

Around 1833 Müller’s 13-key clarinets were starting to be used in Spain, as well as his method to learn the 13-key clarinet. Romero and many other clarinettists were playing this kind of instrument but soon he would discover the Boehm system, introducing Klosé & Buffet’s invention to Spain.

Romero wrote his first Complete Method for the Clarinet in 1845 – nearly a century after the clarinet was introduced in Spain, which would become one of the most significant books for the Spanish clarinet school to date. This book analyses various French clarinet methods, such as those written by Lefèvre, Berr and Buteaux, thus giving a more modern approach than those. It includes a fingering chart for the Müller 13-key clarinet and another one for the Boehm system. It comprises technical exercises in all the tonalities followed by a few duets in each key signature. This book concludes with concert studies and pieces, some of which were originally written by Klosé, Berr, Lefévre and Müller.

Müller’s 13-key clarinets were quite popular among clarinettists by the time Klosé and Buffet invented the Boehm system around 1840. Clarinettists from different countries (including France and Spain) were a bit reluctant to learn a whole new mechanism to play the clarinet. Clarinets such as the Omnitonic clarinet and the Lefévre clarinet were invented in order to make the learning process easier, but they weren’t very successful in the end.

Romero became clarinet professor at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid from 1849 until his retirement in 1876. In the 1850s he started to develop his own clarinet fingering system called Romero System Clarinet, with the intention of correcting some imperfections in intonation and fingering difficulties from the Boehm system. In 1853 he informed August Buffet in Paris about his invention, as Romero wanted Buffet to help him with the construction of his clarinet. Due to family circumstances Buffet had to reject the offer so Romero, eager to finish his project, got in touch with other manufacturers in Paris. Finally it was Paul Bié who, after two years, created a clarinet to Romero’s design that could play in all tonalities, with much better intonation and easier fingering execution.

Among some differences from the Boehm system were a softer touch of the keys and a better sound quality of the G#, A & Bb keys (throat notes), as well as an extra key for the right-hand little finger that opened a hole near the bell, which extended the range down to low Eb. This last feature was quite significant as it meant that this clarinet in Bb would be able to play any music written for clarinet in A and C in the orchestra without the need to own several clarinets.

During August-September 1864 Romero presented his invention in many conferences around Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, which was well received and he was presented with awards on several occasions. Around October that year Romero-system clarinets were quite popular at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid.

Unfortunately the Romero-system clarinets no longer exist today. The lack of instrument makers in Spain and little financial support from the government, as well as the high import and export taxes, contributed to its extinction. Perhaps most importantly, with Romero’s retirement, students at the Real Conservatorio did not have enough time to adequately adapt to the use of this clarinet system. For more details about this clarinet please check this video.

Antonio Romero is also very well-known as one of the main musical editors and instrumental sellers in Madrid at the end of XIX century. Casa Romero Edition published over 9000 scores during that period. Some of his main works written for clarinet are El Primer Solo de Concierto and La Fantasía sobre motivos de Lucrecia Borgia de Donizetti.

Romero’s main pupil was Manuel González, principal clarinet at the Teatro Real since 1856 and clarinet professor at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid from 1883 to 1909.

Spain suffered another war at the end of XIX, the Spanish-American war. As well as in literature, there was a group of musicians called Generation of ‘27 who revolutionised the musical ideas of this society. Its members kept in touch with European composers such as Stravinsky, Ravel, Poulenc, Milhaud, etc. which aided Spanish music development and keeping up with styles like Neoclassicism and Twelve-tone serialism. Unfortunately these innovative ideas would be soon interrupted by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).


Miguel Yuste was born in Cádiz in the south of Spain. He became an orphan at 8 years old at which time he moved to Madrid. He started his clarinet studies at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid in 1883 under the guidance of clarinet professors including Manuel González (Romero’s main pupil). Yuste became principal clarinet in many bands and orchestras in Spain, such as Orquesta de Ópera de los Jardines del Buen Retiro and Orquesta del Teatro Real. He was also one of the co-founder members of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, and was the clarinettist at the Royal Chapel of the Palacio Real in Madrid.

From 1910 Miguel Yuste succeeded his teacher Manuel González as clarinet professor at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid until his retirement in 1940. He taught many clarinet players well-known today. His most notable pupils were Leocadio Parra, principal clarinet at the Orquesta Nacional, and Julián Menéndez, another significant figure of clarinettists in Spain. Some of his students claim that Miguel Yuste was always looking for a solid, compact sound with clear articulations.

Yuste’s influence as a pedagogue, performer, and composer was crucial for Spanish clarinet history. His contribution continued Romero’s legacy into Menéndez’s new influence for the Spanish school.

Yuste significantly reformed the educational clarinet curriculum in Spain, turning it into a course covering six academic years where clarinettists had to study clarinet methods like Romero & Klosé’s, as well as other complementary studies and pieces by European composers. Yuste also wrote works for clarinet and piano to compensate the lack of repertoire in the Spanish clarinet literature.

His works for clarinet are quite technically demanding and challenging but very lyrical at the same time. Most of these works have been required in clarinet competitions and other exams for many years in Spain. To name some of them: Ingenuidad Op. 8 y 59, Estudio Melódico Op. 33, Solo de concurso Op. 39, Capricho Pintoresco Op. 41, Vibraciones del alma Op. 45 and Estudio de Concierto Op. 148. Yuste also composed more than 50 pieces for band and orchestra. It is believed that Yuste’s works were quite influenced by the zarzuela, as he never completed any composition studies.

Around 1950, after the Civil War and its consequent poverty, Spanish music was strongly influenced by the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils and their new techniques. In the same way as in the 1920s, a group of Spanish composers called themselves the Generation of ‘51.

JULIÁN MENÉNDEZ (1896 – 1975)

Julian Menéndez was born in Santander in the north of Spain. During his youth he moved to Bilbao and began his clarinet studies with Pablo Fernández. In 1914 he continued his clarinet learning with Miguel Yuste in Madrid. A few years later he succeeded Yuste as principal clarinet in orchestras such as Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid. He was a clarinettist in many other orchestras. As his clarinet professor Miguel Yuste, he was offered a clarinet position abroad but he also rejected it as his work was being quite acclaimed in Spain.

As a composer he wrote many works for clarinet and piano still performed today, as well as symphonic works and other chamber music. His work as an arranger was quite relevant for wind band literature as well. In 1954 he upgraded Romero’s method in order to meet the standard and techniques of the XX century clarinet repertoire. He also included some of his studies and exercises in this method too.

Among his clarinet works with piano we can highlight six Estudios de Concierto; Andante & Allegro; Introducción, Andante y Danza; Contemplación; and Fantasía Capricho.

His laborious work as a performer and composer didn’t leave him much time to devote to pedagogy. Among his pupils was Rafael Talens, who later would become Vicente Peñarrocha’s and Enrique Pérez Piquer’s clarinet professor.


Enrique Pérez Piquer is currently the principal clarinettist at the Orquesta Nacional in Spain. In his career he has also worked as a soloist performer and pedagogue since 1985. Enrique Pérez Piquer is a direct pupil in the Miguel Yuste & Julián Menéndez lineage. Pérez Piquer has done an enormous work trying to recapture the Spanish clarinet history in Spain. His extensive discography with the pianist Aníbal Bañados compiles most of the works for clarinet and piano by Miguel Yuste and Julián Menéndez.


In the same way as every other clarinet school, Spanish clarinettists today tend to travel and study abroad quite often, so the Spanish school is losing a bit its purity. The most renowned Spanish clarinettists today are Justo Sanz, Joan Enric Lluna, José Luis Estellés and the bass clarinettist Pedro Rubio among others.

Today many clarinettists would agree that lyricism and advance technique were the main influences from Antonio Romero, Miguel Yuste and Julián Menéndez. The melodies in these pieces contain a remarkable taste that you can easily recognised as Spanish.




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