High Register Playing on the Clarinet

Playing in the highest register – the altissimo register – of a woodwind instrument requires much experience, embouchure control and inner hearing. Books and webpages offer a huge number of fingering charts for high notes on clarinets. Relatively few of these sources take into account that fingering is not the prevalent matter in high register playing, and less experienced clarinet players will soon notice that a fingering chart may not help their problems in achieving high pitches. This article deals with matters of playing technique, embouchure and acoustic theory of the clarinet’s altissimo register, which starts at notated c#”’ (c# above staff).

Playing on the Overtones

A sound usually consists not only of the fundamental note (the pitch we predominantly hear in a sound, or the first partial) but of many overtones. A natural timbre contains the fundamental (1st partial), the octave above it (2nd partial), the twelfth (a fifth an octave apart, 3rd partial), the major third two octaves apart (5th partial) and so on. The partials up to the tenth are the following:

The seventh partial is a minor seventh two octaves apart and rather narrow – signficantly narrower as in the equal tempered scale (as played by e.g. a modern piano). Please note that the 7th partial is particularly flat in the clarinet spectrum. In fact, it is so flat that it appears not as a minor seventh but rather as a major sixth. In the above example it means that a d-flat ”’ is sounding instead of a d”’ which would be expected.Please note that the 2nd, 4th and 6th partial are in parentheses and with different noteheads because these partials are suppressed in the clarinet’s timbre. For this reason it is impossible to achieve these partials by overblowing. The third and fifth partial are much more present in the clarinet’s timbre and can be heard in a note played on a clarinet by a prick-eared listener. It may require a lot of practice to hear partials, but it is possible.

Overblowing” a wind instrument means to achieve high pitches by playing on the overtone series of a fundamental pitch. On the clarinet, every pitch from b’ on is achieved by overblowing. The infamous squeaks are nothing else than very high pitches which are produced unintentionally! Without wanting it, the player has “cut off” the lower pitches of a sound and hit one of the overtones instead. It is easy to play clarinet in the high register, you have done it since your very first clarinet lesson!

First Steps in the Lower Altissimo Register

A popular and good teaching method for the high register is to overblow a low note twice, e.g. a – e- c#


Overblowing the first time, the speaker key opens at or nearby a physical node of the vibrating air column and makes the 3rd partial – the perfect twelfth – sound (e.g. a – e”). Or, to explain it in a different way, the speaker hole guarantees that the lowest note (the 1st partial) is “cut off”, and the 3rd partial is heard clearly.

While the clarinet register is obtained by overblowing to the 3rd partial, the altissimo register speaks when the note is overblown a second time. Every clarinetist knows the phenomenon from beginners: Attempting their first tones on a clarinet, it is very likely that a high note sounds instead of a low note. A high “squeak” is nothing else than a very high note which is not wanted at this moment. Are you a clarinet player, and you think it is hard to play in the altissimo register? Remember your first clarinet lessons – or maybe your last public performance in front of parents, friends and your teacher – when you generated that squeak that, um … just happened. Yes, it is that easy. To be honest: It is easy to play a very high note. It is not quite so easy to control it and to know in advance whether a low, medium, high, or very high note is going to sound. But with little experience in clarinet playing and with the help of your teacher, you will soon get better.

To overblow to the altissimo register – the 5th partial or a major third plus two octaves – , the first tone hole (left index finger) is opened additionally to the speaker key and functions as a second speaker hole.

Some notes in the lower altissimo register require a correction of the fingering (right index on g#/d#” key) in order to achieve correct intonation; this may be due to the fact that the first tone hole is relatively big when functioning as a register hole, thus resulting in a tone which is a little sharp in pitch. (Just an assumption. Comments by instrument makers are highly welcome.) A bass clarinet (or an alto clarinet or basset horn, instruments that are bigger than a normal clarinet) does have a closed key for the left index with a very small hole in the middle. In the altissimo register this key is used as a “half hole” in the way that the left index is positioned on the edge of the key and leaves the small hole in the middle open.

The third register can go as high as c-sharp ”” or even d””, being played as the 5th partial above a’ or b-flat’ respectively. Experience shows that it is hard or even impossible to achieve higher partials than the 5th above throat notes (i.e. notes “around the barrel” with a short tube, f-sharp’ to b-flat’). It is not quite clear what the reason is. (Again: Acousticians and instrument makers welcome!)

On notes produced by a longer tube it is possible to go much higher than the 5th partial. There is no limit – theoretically.

For example: c#”’ can be achieved not only as the 5th partial above a, but also as the 7th partial above low e. Theoretically, the 7th partial above low e is d”’. Brymer [Jack Brymer, The Clarinet, 1976] points out that in practice the 7th partial on a clarinet is particularly flat, so flat that it appears to be half a tone lower, in the above case c#”’.

Peter Maxwell Davies uses higher partials in his composition for clarinet solo, The Seven Brightnesses. The given passage is part of the “second movement” (II adagio) of the 3 1/2 minute piece and is notated in two systems. The clarinetist plays a sustained low e and simultaneously lets the higher partials sound through in pp, up to c#”” as the 14th partial:


The notated a#”’ may be an outcome of Maxwell Davies’ work with clarinetist Alan Hacker. When I play this, I get an a”’. But the actual sound depends on many factors such as the mouthpiece-reed combination used or the embouchure of the clarinetist. It is likely that different players achieve higher partials of different pitch and intonation, and it may be assumed that Maxwell Davies would not be too bothered about deviations from his score regarding higher partials.

Practical Considerations

High notes can be difficult to achieve. It requires the ability of an inner hearing, of knowing which pitch one wants to sound. A traditional method for playing high notes involves high pressure of the lower lip and jaw against the reed. From the author’s experience, this is often more hindering than helpful because it dampens the reed and blocks its movement. To play in very high registers it is often more helpful to place the upper teeth a tiny bit further away from the tip of the mouthpiece (i.e. take a little more mouthpiece into the mouth) in order to allow the reed to vibrate more freely. [source: clarinet lessons with Prof. Hans Deinzer 1999-2004; Keith Stein, The Art of Clarinet Playing, 1958] High pitches are achieved by playing on the overtone series. The clarinetist’s lips can dampen the reed or let it vibrate more freely; he often does so to play different shades of sound / various sound colours. Consequently, the higher the note, the more overtones in the sound are needed! Let the reed vibrate freely, and all the high partials will be there, and so all the high pitches will be achieved.

Advanced saxophone players practice their top tones regularly. I think clarinetists should do so, too. Players who are searching for inspiration to practice top tones on a clarinet may look for the almost classic book by Sigurd Rascher, Top Tones for the Saxophone or the less known, but by some saxophone players preferred volume Saxophone High Tones by Eugene Rousseau. Ben Britton gives many exercises in his book Complete Approach to Overtones.

Special Fingerings and Intonation Corrections

Beside the basic fingerings which can be found in any fingering chart, each player finds his or her own fingerings that suit their needs in certain situations. These fingerings may be found by pure chance and “lucky accidents” or by systematic research. It is a fact that the higher the register, the more different fingerings for a pitch can be found. One reason for this is that the altissimo register is achieved by playing on the overtone series of the instument. This implies a certain choice about whether to play on the 3rd, 4th or maybe even 5th partial. Fingerings can be found accordingly by multiple overblowing and adjusting the fingerings where needed, e.g. to correct intonation, or to improve the sound quality.

Credits: The diagrams were made using museScore and Bret Pimentel’s fingering diagram builder.

Posted in Clarinet, Lectures and Masterclasses | 2 Comments

The Library of the Conservatory in Ghent, Belgium

On occasion of a conference at Orpheus Instituut I had some tremendous days in the Flemish town of Ghent in November. My mind has been fueled with so many new ideas, open-minded people and inspiring encounters during and after the conference that I can easily write several blog articles about my time in Ghent and the conference. I decided to write first about my visit in the library of the conservatory, one of the most impressive libraries I ever have seen.

Jeroen Billiet, lecturer in the conference and French horn teacher, had recommended me to visit the library. He described it as a place where to find unknown preciosa in cardboard boxes, but at the same time mentioned that it may be that some things I find in the catalogue may not be available due to the library moving these days.

When I arrived at the library in the Conservatory (street: Hogpoort) I was welcomed by librarian Wim and chief librarian Roos. The room I entered was not more than 30m² big and did look like a cluttered office rather than a library: Computers for catalogue research, shelves with standard encyclopedias such as the New Grove, and desks with piles of random books on them. In the middle of all this: Librarian Wim; „chief librarian“ Roos and librarian Cindy Colman were soon to come, too. I introduced myself as a clarinetist searching for clarinet music of all kinds, especially 19th and 20th century. The digital catalogue showed me some interesting results that are worth researching more. At that point I was still wondering where all those books and scores were, I mean, where the actual library was. Soon after, I found out: On my request Roos got me scores of three Belgian / Ghent composers from 19th and early 20th century, and I was amazed to see some of their manuscripts. The entrance to the „real library“ was a small door on the right, and through a looooong corridor that was covered in scores over and over (not quite: Some shelves were already empty, their „inhabitants“ moved to the new place), one would come to a huge, attic-like room which held all the treasures. First of all, Roos showed me one of the library’s top preciosa: The manuscript of two concertinos for clarinet and orchestra by Charles Louise Hanssens (or Karel Lodewijk Hanssens), composed 1836 and 1837. The conservatory’s clarinet professor has edited them, and they have been published at Metropolis; a faksimile of the manuscript of Concertino no. 1 can be found on imslp.

Roos also showed me the manuscript of a clarinet concertino by Martin Lunssens (1871-1944). Another concertino for clarinet and orchestra, by a certain Adolphe-Abraham Samuel (composed in 1841?) was not on its shelf anymore.

Finally, Cindy Colman helped me get a scan of another interesting piece, „Humoreske voor klarinet en klavier“ (1971) by Gabriel Verschraegen, who was a church musician at the great St Baafs Cathedral; a piece which I could only find in this one library since as far as I know it is not published.

Many of the Ghent musicians and composers and their families have passed on their musical inheritment to this library, and many more preciosa, especially from late 19th to early 20th century, are hidden there. Since I did not really plan on my visit and only had a short time to spend there, I may go back and dig into everything that seems worthwhile!

Unexpected encounters often turn out to be the most interesting ones.

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Radar Ensemble: “La fabbrica”

A week ago we had a remarkable performance with Radar Ensemble of which I am a member. On the program were pieces related by topics, political circumstances and friendships between authors: Friedrich Goldmann’s Drei Ensembleszenen (Three Scenes for Ensemble, 2002) Luigi Nono’s La fabbrica illuminata (1964) and Georg Katzer’s La fabbrica abbandonata (2005) based on a short story by Wolfgang Hilbig.

Luigi Nono: La fabbrica abbandotata
Field recordings from a rolling mill are a main component in La fabbria illuminata by Luigi Nono. Furthermore, Nono used texts by Giuliano Scabia and Cesare Pavese – comments of workers and sentences from their labor contracts – as well as singins voices (choir and a solo soprano voice) and electronic sounds. The tape recordings, some of them unbearably loud and noisy, are combined with the solo soprano voice. The background of the piece is Nono’s critics of working conditions in Italian factories.
After finishing the piece in 1964, Nono had been invited by worker’s cultural circles to perform his music in the rolling mill in Genova where he took his recordings, as well as in factories in other Italian towns. In a conversation with Hansjörg Pauli in 1969 Nono tells about the reception of his performances:

“I used the same approach in all places: First I gave some general explanations and then showed instrumental music, vocal music and electronic pieces. An in al cases the result was the same: the workers had difficulties with the instrumental and vocal pieces; probably because the acoustic material is bound to a cultural development from which they were – and still are – excluded. (…)
The difficulties that appeared with instrumental and vocal music were wiped away with the elctronic pieces which used the acoustic material of today. There were no fundamental objections any more and no aesthetic-oriented questions. Nobody wondered if this was still music, and no one said that a music like this would at best work accompanying science-fiction on TV. They workers asked directly how this was composed, how facotry noises and labor contracts could turn into music. Everything they heard they immediately related to themselves. And then they blamed me and said the noises in my piece, ‘La fabbrica illuminata’, were by far not as strong as those they were used to. They noticed that. They realized that they had been going to the factory like robots and had done their work without thinking about it. Now they suddenly got aware, by the comparison, under what acoustic conditions they were working, and they started to think about if it needed to be this way and if there was a possibility to change it.”

(Hansjörg Pauli: Für wen komponieren Sie eigentlich?, Frankfurt 1971. Translation: Nora-Louise Müller)

Friedrich Goldmann: Drei Ensembleszenen
In our concert, La fabbrica illuminata was paired with Drei Ensembleszenen by Friedrich Goldmann (1941-2009) who was well-known in communist East-Germany (GDR) at the time. Goldmann, a student of the boarding school of the famous Dresdner Kreuzchor and thus equipped with a very thorough music theory knowledge at an early age, had already been composing as a boy and got acquainted to Paul Dessau. With Dessau’s help, he got permission to take part in the Darmstädter Ferienkurse in 1959, as an 18year-old, where he took class with Karlheinz Stockhausen and first met Luigi Nono. (In the following years, Goldmann was re-invited to Darmstadt but was prohibited to travel by the GDR ministry of culture.) Goldmann and Nono became friends, and during Nono’s frequent visits to East Berlin – as a member of the Italian communist party Nono officially was a welcome guest to the GDR – he used to stay at Friedrich and Lina Goldmann’s house. Goldmann worked as a freelance composer and music director, often with Berliner Ensemble, and he conducted many contemporary music concerts, e.g. the German premiere of Luigi Nono’s Prometeo.

Drei Ensembleszenen, composed for the same instrumentation as Katzer’s 2005 version of La fabbrica abbandonata (except trumpet), is a composition rich in detail. Each movement is about 5 minutes long. Conductor Gerhard Scherer had worked a lot with us on precision in cues, finest dynamic differenciation and a detailes balance of sound colours. A very good work that deserves far more performances.
(sources: talk with Gerhard Scherer and friedrichgoldmann.com)

Georg Katzer: La fabbrica abbandonata
Georg Katzer, another close friend of Friedrich Goldmann and well-known composer in former GDR, took his inspiration from Wolfgang Hilbig’s 1971 short story Die verlassene Fabrik (The Abbandoned Factory). Hilbig, born in 1941 in a village in Saxony – later part of the GDR – did an apprenticeship as a toolmaker before working in opencast pit. Being an autodidact writer, he was delegated by the GDR government to a „circle of writing workers“ in 1967 (but evicted a short time later because his critical and intellectual texts were not welcome). Since 1970 he had been working as a stoker in a factory in his hometown Meuselwitz, „a decrepit town of steampipes, soot and cut-down linden trees“ (Hilbig). His impressions inspired the above-mentioned short story, recalling the eerie atmosphere in an out-of-use factory building with the stoker, visiting the abandoned area, dying from an unseen person’s hand. Hilbig’s first publications came out in West-Germany in 1978; his dark, unfiltred writings, describing his experiences as a factroy worker in direct words, were not wanted by the GDR government. It was not before 1983, supported by writer Franz Fühmann, that works by Wolfgang Hilbig were published in the GDR.
Photographer Dietrich Oltmanns portraied Hilbig and his home town Meuselwitz in 1983, underlining Hilbig’s own literary decribtion of the atmosphere:
Oltmanns’ photo series
Georg Katzer had been visiting an abandoned factory somewhere in the former GDR in the beginnings of the 2000s; after the fall of the Berlin wall, many firms had to close down. The atmosphere in the building touched Katzer, and he decided to set Hilbig’s text to music. Instead of ending the piece with the death of the stoker, he extends the story by using another short text by Hilbig, Episode, which describes the encounter with a pheasant.
Katzer’s first version of La fabbrica abbandonata was a structured improvisation for four musicians; the second version, which we played, was composed and premiered in 2005 for an ensemble of twelve musicians, including accordeon and electric guitar. The lowest string of all four string players (2vl, 2 vc) is tuned one octave lower which creates the morbid, muffled, distorted sound that is featured throughout the piece. The percussion set-up includes discarded metal parts that add a great effect to the factory noises played by the ensemble (pizzicati, slaps, prepared piano) and from a tape. Well-known actress Corinna Harfouch spoke Hilbig’s text.

(To be corrected and continued.)

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Improvisation for Clarinet, Wind and Electronics

An art vernissage in Lübeck’s St. Petri church was my occasion to play several improvisations to the audience last month. It was a grey, stormy afternoon, and the strong wind was blowing through the towers of this church from 13th century. Its almost melodic noise, its crescendo and decrescendo was a real inspiration which I gladly took. I added a strong electronic reverb, and the church hall added its own, natural reverb.
You can listen to my improvisation here:

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Harry Partch and Conlon Nancarrow Music in Kiel

The lucky opportunity of listening to Harry Partch’s music live was my reason to go to Kiel on 21st February. Festival chiffren – Kieler Tage für neue Musik were inviting ensemble musikFabrik from Köln who last year performed their giant project of the European premiere of Partch’s Delusion of the Fury during Ruhrtriennale 2013.

I was happy to hear that musikFabrik were doing another Partch piece and were coming to Kiel to play its European premiere.

And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma is Delusion of the Fury‘s predecessor. Partch worked on it from 1963 to 1966.

It was impressive to see the Partch instruments live on stage. Imagine a whole orchestra of instruments which you have never seen before!

Cloud-chamber bowls, gourd tree, marimba eroica, two chromolodeons, and the impressive surrogate kithara are only some of the instruments included in this piece. No common instrument, such as cello or clarinet, is involved.

Harry Partch himself explains his own instruments in two videos, number one and number two. Members of musikFabrik show the process of instrument building in their own video.

And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma consists of 34 verses. Each of the verses 1-23 is exactly one minute long. These verses are duets and trios. Hence, combinations of two verses are played to form verses 24-33; the last verse, no. 34 is a trio of verses.* Partch’s vivid, polyrhythmical music with its steady metre and peculiar sound colours and harmonies was catching! The extremely low bass marimba sounds, made by giant wooden bars, more than one metre long and being played using mallets of the size of a football, were a physical experience. The musikFabrik musicians played very, very well and tight, making Partch’s music groove. Never before have I been at a new music concert where each and every audience member had a red face afterwards, walking about with a big smile!

During the intermission audience were asked to come to another hall. Prof. Dieter Mack explained many of Conlon Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano, and the pieces were played on a 1927 Bösendorfer player grand piano (Bösendorfer Selbstspielflügel) from original paper rolls dating from the 1950s. Seeing and hearing Nancarrow’s pieces performed „live“ is a rare occasion. It might become even rarer since I heard that the collector and owner of many of such instruments, Jürgen Hocker, passed away about two years ago, and it is unclear if and how his pianos can keep travelling. It is understandable that his widow does not have the energy to pursue the project.

After this pleasant and interesting demonstration – a great way to bridge the one-hour intermission needed to change the stage setup – musikFabrik rocked out on some Frank Zappa songs. They started off with The Black Page #1 and #2. Originally composed for one drumset player, #1 was doubled over by the whole percussion section, giving the piece a Partchian touch which I liked as a bridge between those two composers.

If you read this article before the evening of 23rd February, do not hesitate but get a ticket to London to join the next performance of this eccentric program!

*Harry Partch: Genesis of a Music. Da Capo Press, 1947, 2nd edition 1974

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Lupifaro Saxophone Reeds

On this blog I usually write about clarinet related topics or about my own clarinet projects. Few people know that I am also a dedicated saxophone player – although I do not appear in public as a saxophonist very often. My saxophone quartet Aeolia plays mostly classical saxophone literature from Pierre Max Dubois to Elliot Carter, and we play one or the other swing arrangement, too.

However, the reason why I write this article is I want to tell you about a new brand, Lupifaro.

I got samples of their alto saxophone reeds and found them convincing. Lupifaro offers two different cuts, Classic and Jazz.

Setup and Treatment of Reeds

My mouthpiece is a Meyer 5M (medium chamber) with a tip opening of 71, and I tested both cuts in strength 3.

Before playing the reeds for the first time, I soaked them in water for about half a minute. I then played them 10-15 minutes each throughout several days. The next day I watered them and checked the undersides by using a glass plate: A reed works better when the underside is perfectly plane. New reeds usually swell by the water they get, as wood often does. So did these reeds, and I did the usual thing which is sand them with an abrasive block. Thence I let the reeds rest until the next day.

The Classic Cut

The Classic cut offers a rich and warm sound. Even in the lowest register the sound does not break out but stays compact and focused. Top tones speak easily and clearly which is a real joy. The reed speaks well through all registers but needs an accurate attack. The reward is a clean staccato.

I have been playing the reeds for several weeks now, and they are very durable and stable.

The Jazz Cut

The Jazz cut has many of the advantages of the Classic cut, especially the stability and durability of the reeds throughout weeks, even after two hours or more of playing. The sound is as rich and warm as with the Classic cut, maybe a little lighter. On my mouthpiece, the Jazz cut speaks easier, the reed needs a softer attack than the Classic cut.

Comparison of Both Cuts

It took me quite a while to choose my favourite of both cuts since the reeds all are very good and have good properties. My personal preference is the Jazz cut. I was curious about how the two cuts differ from each other, and so I took my Reeds’n Stuff measuring device and tested two of each cut.

The Jazz cut turns out to be more „even“, e.g. the tip is slightly thicker than the Classic, but the incline is smaller so that towards the end the Jazz is thinner than the Classic which is cut a little steeper.

Usability on German Bass Clarinet

Many German bass clarinet players use alto saxophone reeds instead of German bass clarinet reeds. I do this, too because German bass clarinet reeds often are somewhat “stiff”, and the dynamic range is very limited. I used to play Vandoren Classic alto saxophone reeds on a Zinner 139 mouthpiece, or a Légére Signature 2 ¾. (Extremely reliable even if you are playing a gig with the bass clarinet standing aside for 45 minutes; the Légére reed cannot dry out like a wooden reed does. Invaluable!!)

I tried the Lupifaro Classic cut on my bass clarinet – did not work at all.

I tried the Jazz cut, and it worked really fine! The reed speaks easily and gives a full, soft sound throughout the range of the instrument, and the dynamic range is very good.

Lupifaro alto saxophone Jazz cut: Highly recommended for use on German bass clarinets!

About Lupifaro Reeds

The man behind Lupifaro is Italian saxophone luthier Luca Cardinali. He designed the cuts for the reeds, and they are produced by Rigotti in France. Most reed players know Rigotti as a high quality reed maker with fine woods.

Lupifaro reeds have been available since 2012, and at the same time the company came out with three series of saxophones designed and built by Luca Cardinali. Guess what – I ordered a set of saxophones from Lupifaro to try them. Stay tuned to read about Lupifaro saxophones on this blog in some weeks!


I am totally convinced by this new brand! The careful crafting and high wood quality plus the environmental-friendly packaging are a good reason to play Lupifaro reeds. (I stopped recommending Vandoren reeds to my students years ago because the packaging is so what immoderate.)

I have been playing Légére Signature for a long time because I appreciate their reliability – in contrast to the volatile properties of many wooden reed models -, but I miss the “real”, warm sound in them. Those plastic reeds sound okay, but somewhat sterile.

The world of wooden reeds got me back thanks to Lupifaro!

Posted in Reeds and Mouthpieces, Saxophone | 3 Comments

Swiss Clarinet Day 2013

Last weekend I was invited to participate and lecture in the annual meeting of Swiss Clarinet Society. It took place in the music school of the small town Burgdorf near Bern, and I was especially fond of visiting because I grew up in another small town called Burgdorf, situated between Hannover and Celle 750 km North of Swiss Burgdorf.

The Clarinet Day was a whole day full of lectures, recitals, meeting people, and rehearsals – a clarinet ensemble workshop and a jazz clarinet workshop were offered. One of the clarinet’s Grand Seigneurs Hans Rudolf Stalder was there (he was awarded honours for his life work from the International Clarinet Association), and I was pleased to meet Hanstoni Kaufmann who is very successful with his new book Klarinettenblätter korrigieren. Many other players of all levels and styles – amateurs, professionals, teachers, new music performers, jazz players, orchestra musicians – exchanged their experiences and shared their passion.

Christoph Schnyder: Mein Weg zur verstärkten Bassklarinette

 The congress started at 9 o’clock in the morning with the presentation of a clarinetist from Burgdorf, Christoph Schnyder. Inspired by American bass clarinetist Michael Löwenstern (Manhattan School of Music), Christoph adds a microphone and a loop station to his bass clarinet and processes his playing through a computer software. The outcome is a pop-like, easy music. Christoph writes out all his pieces.

 Stephan Siegenthaler: No Poulenc, no Brahms…

Stephan Siegenthaler, also living in Burgdorf and the organizer of the event, spoke about forgotten clarinet repertoire that is worth being rediscovered. In the beginning of his lecture he mentioned the well-known „gold diggers“ such as Dieter Klöcker, Hans Rudolf Stalder, Thomas Friedli, Jost Michaels, and Eduard Brunner who all contributed to broadening the canon of reularly performed clarinet music. Stephan himself has recorded several CDs with rare classic and romantic repertoire and showed us some of his favourites.

Sonatas for clarinet and piano:
Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953)
Donald Francis Tovey (1875-1940)
Albert Moeschinger (1897-1985)

Music for clarinet and string quartet:
Robert Fuchs (1847-1927)
Ferdinand Thieriot (1838-1919)
Ewald Strässer (1867-1933)
Henri Marteau (1874-1934)

Music for clarinet, cello and piano:
Wilhelm Berger, Robert Kahn, Carl Frühling

Works by Heinrich Kaminski (1886-1946):
op. 1b for clarinet, viola, cello, piano
quintet for clarinet, French horn, violin, viola, cello (1924)
Drei geistliche Lieder for soprano, violin, clarinet (1922/23)

Clarinet concerts:
Gottfried Hendrik Mann (1858-1904)
Bernhard Molique

Also mentioned was Joseph Purebl (a monk supposed to have lived 1786-1838) with his „Concert in A major“, but Stephan pointed out that he was not quite sure if this person really existed. The clarinet concert is the only known work by him, and the compositional style – Stephan played a short excerpt of his own recording to us – is somewhat … helpless.

Finally, Stephan mentioned some unknown Italian composers such as the oboist Carlo Pässler who composed quite a lot clarinet music, amongst others a divertimento for clarinet and four strings, and Alessandro Rolla (basset horn concerto in F major).

As sources of his research, besides libraries and encyclopedias, Stephan mentioned imslp.org and unsungcomposers.com.

Heinrich Mätzener: Der Klarinettenklang – Versuch einer physiologischen Analyse

In his lecture Heinrich Mätzener, clarinetist at the Zurich Opera, spoke about his research in posture and muscle tension that he has been doing together with a physiotherapist. He pointed out that the focus on the muscles of feet, calfs and the back leads to a better sound than the exclusive focus on Atemhilfsmuskulatur and belly muscles. Heinrich and his physiotherapist colleague follow the idea that an „activation“ of the arch of foot which might be described as „hold on the floor“ leads to a positive activation of the leg and back muscles, giving the body a better upward direction and at the same time allowing free breathing and a neck muscles.

I think that with this idea, the researchers are close to some aspects of Dispokinesis.

A detailed description of the research project can be found on the website of Hochschule Luzern.

My Lecture: Die Bohlen-Pierce Klarinette

In my lecture I demonstrated and explained the Bohlen-Pierce clarinet. I do not want to review my own lecture in this blog post. If you are interested, visit my website.


Lunchbreak, and time for a beer. Burgdorf has two breweries one of which is the one-man-enterprise Üelus Homebrew: A fresh and tasty ale of apricot colour, and the playful taste of citrus fruits brought forth by its high-quality hops. Delicious!


Üelus Homebrew is served in a little Bistro in a street named Hofstatt.


Matthias Müller: SABRe – Sensor Augmented Bass Clarinet Research

Matthias Müller from Zurich and his technician colleagues David Jud and Isai Angst showed off their project SABRe. Matthias has several sensors and buttons on his bass clarinet: One sensor on the mouthpiece that measures the air pressure, some buttons around the left hand thumb keys, an accelerometer further down on the instrument and a set of sensors or microphones on various keys to pick up the whole instrument. By using these sensors and buttons he controls sound and video effects through a Max/Jitter patch, having a technician as a „human backup“ on the computer if corrections are needed.

Matthias explains hard- and software of his sensor augmented bass clarinet in several documents which can be found here:

A very short description can be found on Matthias’s webpage.

A more detailed description of the sensors on ICST / Zurich University of Arts.

Links to publications and information about the SABRe server to download can be found here. You will not find a maxpatch, supercollider program or others here.

Dirk Altmann: Deutsche Klarinette vs. Böhmklarinette (A Listening Experiment)

Dirk Altmann, principal with Radio Symphony orchestra (RSO) Stuttgart had prepared a blind test in clarinet judging for the audience. Behind a screen he played to excerpts (Freischütz ouverture and the beginning of Debussy’s Première Rhapsody) on four different clarinets: A 1936 Uebel and a 1988 Wurlitzer (both Oehler system) as well as a 1956 Buffet and the new R10 model (both Boehm). The audience were asked to judge the instruments regarding the dynamic range, evenness of registers and personal preferences; finally a guess should be made whether it was a Boehm or an Oehler instrument. It turned out that the personal preferences were quite different – except one objective parameter, intonation – and that there is absolutely no obvious difference between a „Boehm“ and a „German“ clarinet sound. Differences in sound characteristics, if they show up, seem to depend exclusively from the player’s sound imagination and playing style.

In the afternoon, I had time to check out the exhibitions of Schwenk&Seggelke, Vandoren, Buffet and the new and very fine reed company Lupifaro from Lugano.

Enough lectures for today, now it is time for recitals:
The ad-hoc clarinet ensemble gave a short concert.
Fabien Lerat, a very fine French clarinetist living in Geneve played works for clarinet solo.
Reknown Swiss jazz player Simon Wyrsch performed with his quartet.

And home we went. Stephan Siegenthaler and his family were wonderful and generous hosts to Dirk Altmann, Bernhard Röthlisberger, Fabien Lerat and me.

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