Category Archives: Music History

Speaking of Reeds


These are the best images we’ve found yet of the early chalumeau:   descendant of the recorder and predecessor of the clarinet.  Notice the unusual position of the reed:  played against the upper lip, rather than the bottom lip as today.  On the left is a chalumeau in C (by Liebav) and on the right, one in F (by Klenig) from the early 18th century. (Musikmuseet, Stockholm).chalumeau in C Grove Music Online

For the full story, see:

Colin Lawson. “Chalumeau”.  Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.  Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

How many names can a bassoon have?


First there were the Medieval and Renaissance Shawms, later to become bassoons.  But depending on what 16th century European country you were in, there were plenty of different names.  Try matching up these names with the correct countries ( 29.2.2016):

Curtal/Curtail                       Germany

Basson/Fagot                        England

Dulcian/Fagott                     Spain

Fagotto                                   Italian

Bajon                                       France


Sopranino Dulcian 29.2.2016

Rise of the Classical Wind Quintet

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgWhat forces led to the incremental rise in classical Wind Quintet music during the late 18th century?  A quick tally shows ROSETTI wrote one quintet (1), CAMBINI (3), DANZI (9) and REICHA outdid himself with twenty four (24)….establishing the genre by 1820.  Here are three factors that no doubt influenced the zeitgeist:

  1. HARMONIEMUSIK set a precedent for wind instrument ensembles.The Holy Roman Emperor of Austria Joseph II (1741 – 1790) hugely popularized court music for 8 instruments (two each of oboes, clarinets, horns & bassoons. No flutes). These were in-house bands, part of the musical staff; and their function was to provide recreational serenades for banquets and outdoor garden parties.

HARMONIEMUSIK    Harmoniemusik Band  

Emperor Joseph II     Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II

2.  JOSEPH HAYDN’s (1732 – 1809) chamber compositions.  After Haydn’s release from his Esterhazy commitments and the subsequent publication of his early string quartets in 1781 (opus 33), chamber genres gained in popularity. Other composers began applying similar ideas to wind music (small groups/balance of instruments).  We’ve included a little miniature of Haydn’s wife Anna.  You already know what Haydn looks like….

Haydn's Wife AnnaAnna Haydn

3. DEVELOPMENTS in instrument making, especially the clarinet.  As wind instruments became more technically adept in the 18th century, the compositional possibilities increased. For example, keypad, ligature and reed shape changes to the early Denner clarinet (17th c) were made by Iwan Muller in 1812. Suddenly tonality and reliability improved (it seems the old felt keypads did not guarantee a good (or any) sound!).  Composers were not backward in exploring/exploiting(?) the new possibilities.

EARLY CLARINET Muller (1800)                                                         Iwan Muller period clarinets