Posted by bitguru on February 29, 2008
I don’t play much B♭ soprano clarinet, but when I do I use a plateau (closed-hole) model. Plateau B♭clarinets are oddballs, but not exactly rare. Several turn up on eBay each year. That’s where I bought the Noblet plateau B♭ clarinet I play.
Plateau clarinets in A, however, are rare. Until recently I had never heard of one. That has changed, though, because I just picked up a matched set of B♭and A plateau full-Boehm Selmer Paris clarinets made in 1937. They are in pretty rough shape and I probably overpaid for them, but now I’m one step closer to world domination my goal having a nice set of “soprano bass clarinets” to play.
The horn on the left is my Noblet B♭plateau clarinet. In the middle is the Selmer Bb plateau clarinet. It’s as long as a standard A clarinet because of the extended range to low Eb (notice the fifth RH pinky key). On the right is the Selmer A plateau clarinet, which also goes down to low E♭ and is even longer.
Interestingly, the LH thumb hole is not plateau on the Selmers. (It is on the Noblet.) This is the reverse of a Mazzeo System clarinet, in which the thumb key is plateau but the other holes are open.
The first thing I have to do is find a case for these guys. (The case in which they came is falling apart and is beyond repair.) A standard Bb/A clarinet case won’t do because these horns are too long. If anyone out there has suggestions, please leave a comment.
After that I’m going to see about getting them overhauled. Just about every pad and spring needs to be replaced, and several keys need to be bent back into position. A large crack on one of the bells needs to be repaired (or probably I’ll just obtain a replacement bell) and what would seem to be an old repair of a substantial crack on the top joint of the B♭ should be scrutinized. After that, we’ll see if these things can even play in tune.