Instruments | Bass Clarinet | Late Romantic | Classical
Commonly pitched in B flat like the standard orchestral clarinet, but sounding an octave below it, the bass clarinet began life as an eighteenth-century instrument that looked faintly like a dulcian, though with an upward-pointing bell. Adolphe Sax (1814–94) and L. A. Buffet (fl. 1839–43) both worked on the instrument in the nineteenth century. Sax developed one with two speaker keys, one high up and one halfway down the column of the instrument, which break the continuity of the blown air and allow the instrument to reach its higher notes. The greater size of the bass clarinet and its larger fingerholes meant that it made an early move into comprehensive keywork.
Because many instruments were manufactured with lower notes, Wagner scored for bass clarinet in A and used the low E, which requires the modern instrument to have extra length and an extra key. Similar depths are required by Shostakovich, who wrote for instruments with this extra range.
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