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Historical Chronology of the Clarinet

Stephen Fox

The following is a brief listing - not intended to be comprehensive - of some highlights in the history of the clarinet, from its invention around 1700 to the late 19th century, along with relevant compositions and some information concerning other musical matters.  The basset horn and other larger clarinets are not yet included in this listing.

Date Clarinets, makers, clarinettists Other instruments; pitch levels Musical works
< ca. 1685 Various idioglot single reed cylindrical bore instruments
> ca. 1685 Chalumeau:  separate single reed, wide mouthpiece, recorder-style foot joint, two keys with (usually) opposed holes
ca. 1685-1707 Career of J. C. Denner
ca. 1700-10 Transformation of back key into register key (J. C. Denner?)
ca. 1710-1735 Career of I. Denner
1712-15 E. Roger:  Duos for chalumeaux or clarinets
1716 Vivaldi:  Juditha Triumphans (involving clarinets?)
> 1718 Telemann:  various works involving chalumeau
> 1721 Telemann:  various works involving clarinet
ca. 1720 Typical mid-Baroque clarinet:  wide mouthpiece integral with barrel, one-piece body, bell integral with section carrying R4 hole; 2 keys; usually boxwood; usually in D or C
1728 V. Rathgeber:  concerti grossi (Chelys Sonora)
ca. 1725-40 Vivaldi:  concerti grossi (RV 556, 559, 560)
1740-41 Handel:  Ouverture for two clarinets and horn
ca. 1740 3rd key (E/B), at this stage usually for right thumb
(N.B.- some believe this dates from earlier)
ca. 1740-50 Narrow mouthpiece & reed (still integral with barrel), smaller bore
ca. 1745 J. M. Molter:  concerti (at least 4, probably 6) for clarinet and strings
1749-51 J. P. Rameau:  Zoroastre, Acante et Céphise
1751 Handel's tuning fork pitch A422.5
< 1757 J. Stamitz:  Concerto?
ca. 1760 4th key (Ab/Eb  or F#/C#); E/B key now for L4
ca. 1770 Typical Classical clarinet:  separate mouthpiece & barrel, separate upper & middle joints, separate bell; 5 keys; usually boxwood; Bb and A, secondarily C, most common pitches
ca. 1767-1812 Career of J. Beer
ca. 1770-1792 Career of T. Lotz
1770-79 C. Stamitz:  Concerti
ca. 1775 J. A. Stein fortepiano:  range 5 octaves (F'-f'''), knee levers, Prellmechanik with escapement, small leather covered  hammers, two/three strings per note

J. A. Stein's tuning fork pitch A421.6

ca. 1775-1806 Career of A. Stadler
ca. 1776-1817 Career of F. Tausch
1781-82 Mozart:  Serenades K361, 375, 388
1783-85 Mozart:  Divertimenti K439a, Adagios K484 & K440, Duos K496a
1784 Mozart:  Quintet K452
1786 Mozart:  Trio K498
1788 Mozart:  Symphonies Nos. 39, 40, 41
1789 Mozart:  Quintet K581
1791 Mozart:  Concerto K622, Tito, Zauberflöte, Requiem
ca. 1785-1813 Career of H. Grenser
1792-3 Beethoven:  Octet Op. 103
1793-1838 Career of Crusell
1794 Haydn:  Symphonies Nos. 99-104
1796 Beethoven:  Quintet Op. 16
1797 Pleyel:  Concerto
1798 Beethoven:  Trio Op. 11
Haydn:  Creation
1799 Beethoven:  Symphony No. 1, Septet Op. 20
ca. 1800 Modern violin established:  longer, angled neck; higher bridge; stronger soundpost and bass bar; heavier strings (wound G, possibly wound D and A, plain gut E); Tourte style bow

First use of metal bracing on piano frame

ca 1800-01 Crusell:  Concerti Nos. 1, 2
1801-3 Vanhal:  Sonata
1802 Beethoven:  Symphony No. 2
1803 Simiot 12 key clarinet Beethoven:  Symphony No. 3
1806 Laurent flute:  metal posts, steel flat springs Beethoven:  Symphony No. 4, Violin Concerto
1807 Beethoven:  Symphony No. 5
Crusell:  Concerto No. 3?
1807-1834 Career of H. Bärmann
1808 Beethoven:  Symphony No. 6
Spohr:  Concerto No. 1
1810 Müller clarinet:  12-13 keys inc. low F/C, stuffed pads, metal posts Paris Opera pitch A423 Spohr:  Concerto No. 2
 ca. 1810 H. Bärmann plays 10 key clarinet by Griessling & Schlott
1811 Weber:  Concertino, Concerti Nos. 1, 2
1812 Beethoven:  Symphonies Nos. 7, 8
1813 London Philharmonic pitch A423.3 Spohr:  Nonet
1815 T. Willman plays 13 key clarinet Mälzel patents metronome Weber:  Quintet, Grand Duo
Schubert:  Symphony No. 3
1815-21 Dresden Opera pitch A423
1816 Schubert:  Symphonies Nos. 4, 5
Rossini:  Barber of Seville
1819 Mercadente:  Concerto
ca. 1820 Violin chinrest popularized (over tailpiece; Spohr)

London Philharmonic pitch A433

Typical Viennese piano, e.g. Graf:  wood frame, ~2.5m long, 6-6½ octave range, leather over felt hammers, pedals

1821 S. Erard patents repetition action for piano Spohr:  Concerto No. 3
Weber:  Der Freischütz
1822 Schubert:  Unfinished Symphony
1822-30 Paris Opera pitch A432, down to 426, back up to 431
1823 Beethoven:  Symphony No. 9
1824 Mendelssohn:  Sonata
Schubert:  Octet
1825 Schott catalogue:  clarinets in boxwood, ebony, cocus, with brass or silver keys
1826 Dresden Opera pitch A435
London Philharmonic pitch A433
1828 Spohr:  Concerto No. 4
Schubert:  Der Hirt auf dem Felsen
Schubert:  Great C Major Symphony
1829 Berlioz:  Symphonie Fantastique
1832  L.-A. Buffet:  long hinge rods on clarinet T. Boehm flute (conical bore) Mendelssohn:  Concertstücke
Mendelssohn:  Hebrides Overture
1833 Mendelssohn:  Italian Symphony
1834 Baillot:  L'art du violon; lays basis for modern violin technique (Wagner begins conducting)
1837 L.-A. Buffet:  needle springs on clarinet
1840 A. Sax- ring keys on clarinet (R2, R3)
ca. 1840-79 Career of G. Ottensteiner
1841 Schumann:  Symphonies Nos. 1, 4
1842 Mendelssohn:  Scottish Symphony
1843 Klosé-Buffet system clarinet
patented (term "Boehm system" not used until after ca. 1860)
Mendelssohn:  Midsummer Night's Dream
Wagner:  Der Fliegender Holländer
1845 Liszt:  Les Préludes
1846 Saxophone patented
London Philharmonic pitch A436
Schumann:  Symphony No. 2
1847 T. Boehm flute (cylindrical bore)
1849 Schumann:  Phantasiestücke
1849-54 London Philharmonic Pitch A445.9
1851 (Wagner:  Oper und Drama)
1852 Reinecke:  Fantasiestücke
1853 Bechstein, Blüthner, Steinway companies founded Schumann:  Märchenerzählungen
1855 Paris Opera pitch A449
1858 Brahms:  Serenade No. 1 (original nonet version)
1859 French law sets pitch at A435 (diapason normal)

Steinway grand piano:  cast iron frame, modern range; volume and mechanical proportions

Wagner:  Tristan und Isolde
1860 Bärmann system clarinet patented
1861 "Patent C# key" invented
1862 London Philharmonic pitch A451.5
1864 Gade:  Fantasiestykker
1864-1873 C. Bärmann:  Vollständige Clarinett-Schule