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SCHWENK & SEGGELKE Klarinettenbau | Nachbauten historischer Instrumente

Period Clarinets

What did clarinets look like shortly after their invention? Would you be able to play them today? Why did Mozart compose for basset clarinets in A? What is a clarinet d’amour? Why is the sound of clarinets, made during Schumann’s lifetime, so utterly beautiful? Why is it, that Brahms composed the most wonderful clarinet pieces as an old man? You will find all these and more questions answered, when delving into our range of period clarinet replicas from the early 18th to the late 19th century. All these instruments have been field-tested and used, inter alia, by the ensemble Clarimonia in concerts, workshops and CD-productions.

Should you be interested in experiencing the unique sound of these wonderful instruments, we whole-heartedly recommend you to listen to Clarimonia’s work, as well as that of an increasing number of soloists, who are discovering the beauty of period clarinets. You are more than welcome to make an appointment with our team, as well as join a workshop held by Clarimonia themselves.

Clarinets at the beginning of the 18th century, a = 415 Hz

By replicating Jacob Denner’s work, we are honouring one of the first clarinets ever built.

Jacob Denner (1685-1735) was the oldest son of Johann Christoph Denner (1655-1707) and directly involved in the clarinet’s design process. Although the beak of this early version is still relatively wide (cylindrical to the top), the short, open table allows for an effortless playing of the Clarin-register, resulting in a sound similar to the natural trumpet.

As can be experienced when listening to Johann Melchior Molter’s magnificent solo concerto recordings, Clarino parts can be especially well played on this instrument.

G.F. Händel: Overture in D major (Excerpt)

As the original instrument’s tuning pitch is about 440 Hz, we adjust the upper and right-hand joint to be able to offer instruments tuned in today’s commonly used baroque pitch of 415 Hz.

Its tuning pitch leads us to the assumption that it might have been used in church music, tuned to match the pipe organ.

Clarinets from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century, a = 430 Hz

5 keys
6 keys + double hole for c’ sharp
8 keys

The company Bühner & Keller from Strasbourg was active from 1802 until 1844. The Ozi bassoon method references their instruments.

Optically, this C clarinet is comparable to Baumann’s design (Paris, 1772-1845). It has, however, a typically German, primarily cylindrical bore which increases in width rather late. This results in a full, soft sound. Whereas the original has only 5 keys, we offer replicas with up to 8 keys. Not only does it have an extraordinary intonation, it also doesn’t require high breath pressure. As a result, switching to clarinets in B flat or A becomes easier, as the mouthpiece can be played with b flat clarinet reeds, as well.

J. Pranzer: Trio C major (Excerpt)

5 keys, double hole for c’ sharp
in B flat with an interchangeable A clarinet middle joint (on request also available in 420 Hz)

This early 5-key clarinet’s special feature is its bell which is undetachable from the lower joint. The original instrument is part of a private collection. Barrel and mouthpiece were missing and have been replaced. Characteristic for this piece are the middle joints’ thin walls, as well as its very small and spaced out tone holes.

The 14.55 mm bore is on the larger side. The original instrument stems from the last quarter of the 18th century and marks the transition from the 4-key clarinet of the early classicism to the 5-key clarinet of the Viennese classicism.

The proximity of Frölich’s workshop to the Würzburg Residence suggests that the famous clarinet virtuoso and teacher Phillip Meisner (1748-1816), who was also based in Würzburg, was familiar with his instruments and might even have used them.

Ph. Meissner: Duo concertant op 4. (Excerpt)

7 keys
9 keys
11 keys
Also available is a basset lower joint for clarinets in A

In 1796, Heinrich Grenser (1764-1813) took over his uncle August Grenser’s workshop in Dresden. Our replica is a reference to his A / B flat instruments displayed in Markneukirchen.

Virtuosos like e.g. Hendrik Crusell and Ivan Müller played Heinrich Grenser’s instruments. While their design still resembles the classic 5-key clarinet, the strong corpus and accurate intonation, even when playing difficult half tones, already facilitates the interpretation of e. g. Weber’s and Mendelssohn’s works.

K. Kreutzer: Trio (Excerpt)

N. W. Gade: Fantasy pieces for clarinet and piano
(Clarinet in B flat; from the CD "Musikalische Morgenunterhaltung")

R. Schumann: Romance No. 1, from op. 94
(Clarinet in A; from the CD "Musikalische Morgenunterhaltung")

The basset clarinet (in A, B flat or C) is similar to the basset horn which Mozart composed his clarinet quintet KV 581, as well as his clarinet concert KV 622 for, of which, unfortunately, only a reconstructed version exists, today. In 1788, the basset clarinet was developed by the Viennese Royal Court instrument maker Theodor Lotz and Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler (1753-1812). As was the standard procedure with the basset horn, they extended the range by a major third downwards, however, using all semitone steps, creating the need for 4 keys. The basset horns during that time, were built diatonically with a double angled bore while the shorter basset clarinet was still built unbent. After Mozart’s death, his lowest concert passages were upped by an octave to be playable on the popular A clarinet.

Not being able to reference an original instrument and having done extensive research, we have based our measurements of the basset clarinet on an original drawing by Theodor Lotz. The drawing was found on a programme leaflet distributed on the occasion of Stadler’s concert tour in 1798, in Riga which depicted him as an inventor, as well as a virtuoso. The instrument comes with a pear-shaped bell, similar to that of some basset horn designs. Our replica is based on H. Grenser’s A clarinet. Similar instruments of different tuning have been built at the workshops of e.g. Johann Benjamin Eisenbrandt in Göttingen (prior to 1822) and Johann Georg Braun in Mannheim (between 1816 and 1833).

Playing the beautiful music of this time period on a historically accurate instrument is a very special experience. Should you be looking for a more cost-effective alternative to a completely new instrument, our team at SCHWENK & SEGGELKE came up with a solution. Our workshop offers a historic basset lower joint for your clarinet in A which is placed underneath the three finger holes played by the right hand. Some customers, however, prefer the feel of modern clarinets which is why we have developed a contemporary designed basset clarinet, as well. We also offer said lower joint for the contemporary version of the basset clarinet.

W. A. Mozart: Clarinet concerto A major, 3. movement
(from the CD "Mozart 1791" with Charles Neidich)

Friedrich Hammig’s son, Friedrich Hammig junior, took over his father’s workshop at the beginning of the 19th century. 1792, his father had developed a “new basset horn” which his son continued to build. The instrument we have based our replica on, is part of Buffet-Crampon’s collection in Mantes-La Ville, France. It was preserved with two differently sized barrels and upper joints, respectively, the missing mouthpiece was supplemented. The original instrument has 6 keys and two basset keys for low D and C. Our replica has up to 9 keys and 3 basset keys.

CD Clarimonia Mozart etcetera: Serenade I KV439b, Allegro (Excerpt)


Clarinets during the 19th century; a = 438-440 Hz

13 keys
Boxwood stored over an extensive time period

Kayser’s (1809-1890) workshop was based in Denmark which is why his instruments were especially well-known in Denmark and England, at the time. They are ideal for Robert Schumann’s work, Johannes Brahm’s early pieces, Niels Wilhelm Gade and opera literature up until 1860/70. Original pieces can mainly be found in Northern Germany and Scandinavia, but also in Central Germany.

Corpus made of French boxwood (buxus sempervirens)
19 keys silver-plated (gold-plated on demand)
2 barrels, 438-440 Hz

In his “Method of clarinet” 1860/61 – edition 1917 – volume la ED 502a Carl Baermann recounts how his collaboration with Georg Ottensteiner came to be.

When Carl Baermann witnessed the Royal Bavarian Court musician Theobald Boehm perform on his “new flute”, he realised that this invention would change the world of instruments as he knew it. Baermann was bent on developing a clarinet that retained the original instrument’s character and ease of play and conducted extensive research to achieve that. He then collaborated with the instrument maker Georg Ottensteiner, based in Munich, who he considered a true master of his craft, to develop the romantic clarinet. He emphasizes that no instrument can be built perfectly with a just intonation.
Arguing, that all musicians who are able to distinguish sharp from flat will understand the reasoning behind that. C sharp is, when played as a major third of A major, very different from D flat, when played as minor third of B minor.

Richard Mühlfeld was playing on a beautiful pair of these instruments up to his death in 1907. His family has kindly allowed for them to be displayed at the Meininger Museum, as part of the history of music collection, for all inquisitive clarinettist to admire. Given their great tradition, these clarinets represent the performance practise, common during the second half of the 19th century, and are closely related to Brahms’ late works for clarinet.

Our replicas adhere closely to the original measurements. We use boxwood from our own stock that has been stored for several decades. The original instrument’s mechanic parts were made from polished nickel silver, whereas today they are silver-plated. On demand we offer gold plating. Our mouthpieces are made from Grenadilla or hard rubber. They are hand-made in order to resemble the original.

R. Stark: Trio g minor (Excerpt)

CD Clarimonia Twilight: Joseph Friedrich Hummel Trio No. 2 (Excerpt)

Should you have any further questions or special requests,
please don’t hesitate to contact us.