Evolution of the Clarinet 1600-1800

The so-called chalumeaux may be allowed to voice their somewhat howling symphony of an evening, perhaps in June or July and from a distance, but never in January at a serenade on the water.1

With the stream of negative comments like the one above found throughout writings of the 16th and 17th centuries, it is a wonder how the early clarinet, known as the chalumeau, survived to become the instrument we all know today. Surely Mozart would not have written his Concerto for Clarinet for an instrument described as having such a harsh and intolerable sound. While listening to the slow and tender second movement, it is evident that this version of the clarinet was not the instrument he had in mind to play that piece. It is also safe to assume that this early clarinet is not the same as the one chosen for the modern-day orchestra; it would most likely draw the wrong kind of attention to itself and not blend within the rest of the woodwind section. Continue reading “Evolution of the Clarinet 1600-1800”