Bass clarinet in A in Ravel's Concerto for the left hand

On Sunday, March 1st, I'm playing the bass clarinet in the Ensemble Sable & Ciel, for the Ravel's Concerto pour la main gauche. I would like to invite you, but the concert is sold out.

Conductor Joël Doussard designed a concert of French Music, with Fauré's Pelléas et Mélisande orchestral suite, and both the Concerto en sol and the Concerto pour la main gauche by Maurice Ravel.
Pianist François Dumont will perform both piano concertos!

Bass clarinet in A

Ravel is calling for a bass clarinet in Bb and a bass clarinet in A. Given the cost/benefit ratio of the instruments, the bass clarinet in A has almost entirely disappeared. I am convinced that the timbre difference between an A and a Bb bass clarinet is less than the difference you have between bass clarinets from two manufacturers, or between two clarinetists playing the same instrument, or between 2 mouthpiece/reed combinations played by the same performer.

But the bass clarinet in A did exist. For more information, check out Keith Bowen's well-researched essay: The Rise and Fall of the Bass Clarinet in A, available for instance at the International Bass Clarinet Research Center.


  1. Thanks for the info and the link. I believe that Schoenberg wrote for Contrabass clarinet in A in one piece, but there's no evidence that the instrument was ever built (or that Schoenberg knew that he was writing for an unknown instrument). As far as instrument changing goes, I don't think anything is more painful to a modern player who might not have all the instruments than Strauss Rosenkavalier.

  2. Thanks Michael. Yes, Der Rosenkavalier, especially the 3rd clarinet, doubling on Eb and D! I would choose the Bass clarinet & basset-horn, that would be nice. We are playing Strauss next year, I think it will be the four last songs.
    I looked into the "contrabass clarinet in A": thanks for mentioning this. Indeed, the instrument is called for in the Fünf Orchesterstücke; it appears on the first page of the score, along with a bass clarinet in... Bb!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Max for Live: Extreme Time Stretching with Spectral Stretch

GroundSwell 2020 Emerging Composers Competition

A Free Tutorial on Spectral Sound Processing Using Max/MSP and Jitter