What Is the History of the Clarinet?


Quick Answer

The invention of the clarinet took place around the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th, though most early models were poor in fluency and tone compared to later versions. The single-reed chalumeau was the early ancestor of the clarinet.

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Full Answer

Johann Christoph Denner of Nuremburg, as well as his son Jacob, helped to bridge the transition between the chalumeau and the clarinet. Their contributions included additional octaves and better mouthpieces and bells. Further contributions came from Iwan Müller, who improved the instrument's key system, and from Theobald Boehm.

An anonymous set of duets for various woodwind instruments, which appeared around 1712, is one of the earliest known works calling for the clarinet. In addition, the chorus "Plena nectare" from Antonio Vivaldi's oratorio "Juditha Triumphans" is one of the earliest known uses of the clarinet in the orchestral repertoire. The "Maria Assumpta" mass by Jean-Adam-Joseph Faber of 1720 is an early liturgical use of the instrument. Subsequent composers wrote concerti and other works for the clarinet that served to highlight the instrument's capabilities. Some of the most notable of these composers include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Karl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and Sergej Prokofieff (1891-1953).

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