World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Basset horn

Article Id: WHEBN0000403162
Reproduction Date:

Title: Basset horn  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Anton Stadler, Bass clarinet, Licht, Johann Stadler, Tara Bouman
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Basset horn

Nineteenth-century basset horn

The basset horn (sometimes written basset-horn) is a musical instrument, a member of the clarinet family.


  • Construction and tone 1
  • Repertoire 2
    • Other works 2.1
  • Basset horn soloists and ensembles 3
  • Trivia 4
  • Media 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9
    • Recordings 9.1

Construction and tone

Museum of Musical Instruments, Berlin: 18th-century basset horns (with clarinets, a flute, and bassoons)

Like the clarinet, the instrument is a wind instrument with a single reed and a cylindrical bore. However, the basset horn is larger and has a bend near the mouthpiece rather than an entirely straight body (older instruments are typically curved or bent in the middle), and while the clarinet is typically a transposing instrument in B or A (meaning a written C sounds as a B or A), the basset horn is typically in F (less often in G). Finally, the basset horn has additional keys for an extended range down to written C, which sounds F at the bottom of the bass staff. Its timbre is similar to the clarinet's, but darker. Basset horns in A, G, E, E, and D were also made; the first of these is closely related to the basset clarinet.[1][2]

The basset horn is not related to the horn, or other member of the brasswind family (Sachs-Hornbostel classification 423.121.2 or 423.23); it does, however, bear a distant relationship to the hornpipe and cor anglais. Its name probably derives from the resemblance of early, curved versions to a horn.[3]

Some of the earliest basset horns, which are believed to date from the 1760s, bear an inscription "ANT et MICH MAYRHOFER INVEN. & ELABOR. PASSAVII", which has been interpreted to mean they were made by Anton and Michael Mayrhofer of Passau.[4]

Modern basset horns can be divided into three basic types, distinguished primarily by bore size and, consequently, the mouthpieces with which they are played:

  • The small-bore basset horn has a bore diameter in the range of 15.5 to 16.0 mm (still somewhat larger than a soprano clarinet bore, though it is often erroneously thought to be the same; even a large bore English clarinet, such as the old B&H 1010 design has a smaller bore of 15.3 mm). It is played with a B/A clarinet mouthpiece. Only Selmer (Paris) and Stephen Fox (Canada) currently make this model.
  • The medium-bore basset horn has a bore diameter in the region of 17.0 mm or slightly less. This is the most common type made by German-system manufacturers (e.g., Otmar Hammerschmidt (Austria)). Since no French-style mouthpiece with an appropriate bore is mass-produced, this model requires a matching German basset-horn mouthpiece. (This model is not usually recognized in North America, where it is confused with the large bore type described below.) Stephen Fox currently makes this model also.
  • The large-bore basset horn, with a bore diameter of about 18.0 mm and played with an alto-clarinet mouthpiece, is in constructional terms an alto clarinet pitched in F and with the extra basset notes. The Leblanc basset horns (bores c. 18.0 to 18.2 mm) are of this type

The current Buffet basset horn could be called a hybrid "medium-large bore" model, since it uses an alto-clarinet mouthpiece but has a bore diameter around 17.2 mm.


Suzanne Stephens with a modern basset horn (made by Leblanc, 1974)

A number of composers of the Heinrich Backofen.

In the 19th century, Felix Mendelssohn wrote two pieces for the basset horn, clarinet, and piano (opus 113 and 114). These were later scored for string orchestra. Franz Danzi wrote the Sonata in F, for Basset Horn and Piano, Op. 62 (1824) Antonín Dvořák attempted a half-hearted revival, using the instrument in his Czech Suite (1879), in which he specifies that an English horn (cor anglais) may be used instead, but the instrument was largely abandoned until Richard Strauss took it up once more in his operas Elektra (1909), Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Daphne, Die Liebe der Danae, and Capriccio, and several later works, including two wind sonatinas (Happy Workshop and Invalid's Workshop). Franz Schreker also employed the instrument in a few works including the operas Die Gezeichneten and Irrelohe. Roger Sessions included a basset horn in the orchestra of his Violin Concerto (1935), where it opens the slow movement in a lengthy duet with the solo violin. In the last quarter of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st, Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote extensively for basset horn, giving it a prominent place in his cycle of operas Licht and other pieces.

Other works

Basset horn soloists and ensembles

The Lotz Trio performs on replicas of basset horns made originally by 18th-century instrument maker Theodor Lotz from Pressburg (Bratislava) and Vienna. The ensemble endeavours to follow up with popular wind harmonias from the 18th century. The repertory of the Lotz Trio ensemble is formed by original music called by a German name Harmoniemusik. It is presented predominantly by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music, nevertheless, the ensemble performs also music by other Central-European composers – Georg Druschetzky, Martín I Soler, Anton Stadler, Vojtech Nudera, Johann Josef Rösler and Anton Wolanek.

The Prague Trio of Basset-horns, based in the Czech Republic, has a repertoire of music originally written for, or transcribed for, three basset horns by composers including Mozart, Scott Joplin, and Paul Desmond.

Suzanne Stephens is a leading basset-horn specialist in contemporary music. Starting in 1974, the German Karlheinz Stockhausen composed many new works for her, including a large number for basset horn.


The Italian name for the instrument, corno di bassetto, was used by Bernard Shaw as a pseudonym when writing music criticism.


Performed by Leila Storch (oboe), William McColl (basset-horn), and Anita Cummings (piano). The basset-horn begins playing about 30 seconds in.

Problems playing this file? See .

See also

  • Alto clarinet (a somewhat similar instrument, usually pitched one whole step lower and without the lower extension keys)


  1. ^ Lawson, Colin (November 1987). "The Basset Clarinet Revived". Early Music 15 (4): 487–501.  
  2. ^ Rice, Albert R. (September 1986). "The Clarinette d'Amour and Basset Horn". Galpin Society Journal 39: 97–111.  
  3. ^ Jeremy Montagu, "Basset Horn", The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
  4. ^ Nicholas Shackleton. "Basset-horn", Grove Music Online, ed. Deane Root (accessed 25 March 2011), (subscription access).
  5. ^ "'"Oakland Symphony performs a clarinetist's 'Dream. Inside Bay Area. 2007-03-21. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 

Further reading

  • Dobrée, Georgina. 1995. "The Basset Horn". In The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet, edited by Colin Lawson, 57–65. Cambridge Companions to Music. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47066-8 (cloth); ISBN 0-521-47668-2 (pbk).
  • Grass, Thomas, Dietrich Demus, and René Hagmann. 2002. Das Bassetthorn: seine Entwicklung und seine Musik. Norderstedt: Books on Demand. ISBN 3-8311-4411-7.
  • Hoeprich, Eric. 2008. The Clarinet. The Yale Musical Instrument Series. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10282-6.
  • Jungerman, Mary C. 1999. "The Single-reed Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen: How Does One Begin?". The Clarinet 27: 52.
  • Weston, Pamela T. 1997. "Stockhausen's Contributions to the Clarinet and Basset Horn....". The Clarinet 25, no. 1:60–61.

External links

  • Lotz Trio
  • Lotz Trio on Facebook
  • "The Basset Horn" by Georgina Dobrée, Music Associates of America
  • Stephen Fox (maker of basset horns)
  • "National Music Museum" (more images and info)


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.