About five years ago I purchased a pair of full-Boehm clarinets in B♭ and A. At the time I wrote, “the first thing I have to do is find a case for these guys,” but only now have I gotten around to doing something about it.
Actually, about a year ago I purchased a cheap WWBW-branded double clarinet case because I had read a forum post that it could be modified for full-Boehm instruments. But when it arrived the case itself was narrower than the lower joints of the A clarinet, so it obviously wasn’t going to work.
Later I read that an SKB model 320 single clarinet case could be modified with a hammer to hold a full-Boehm instrument. I ordered two of them. They arrived last week. Modification by hammer was relatively straightforward.
After modification, the Bb full-Boehm clarinet does fit in the case reasonably well. (See top image.) Unfortunately, the A full-Boehm clarinet is simply too long for the case. (See bottom image.) Fortunately, I only hammered one of the two cases. I can return the pristine one for a refund.
For the moment I’m storing the A clarinet in an old Conn case that is similar to the one linked here except it’s in much rougher shape. The lower joint doesn’t fit in any of the slots but it does fit in the large compartment at the bottom. I have encased the lower joint in bubble wrap so it won’t bounce around. The upper joint, barrel, and bell fit in the slots. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.
The search for a better case (singe or double but preferably a double) continues.
Amati still makes full-Boehm clarinets in the Czech Republic. An Amati rep in Europe told me I could purchase two separate full-Boehm clarinet cases through their American distributor, though he couldn’t guarantee that my Selmers would fit. I might have been willing to take the risk but the American rep was unwilling to help me. That was in 2009. I could try again, or attempt to import one from Europe.
Most clarinet quartets consist of either four sopranos or three sopranos and a bass. Don’t get me wrong. They sound great, especially the ones with basses. But I have sometimes wondered why there aren’t quartets with four different sizes of clarinets, in the manner of most saxophone quartets.
Well, I just found one. The Quartetto Italiano di Clarinetti consists of Maurizio Morganti on E♭ soprano clarinet, Carlo Franceschi on soprano clarinet, Giovanni Lanzini on alto clarinet, and Augusto Lanzini on bass clarinet.
There are three sample MP3s on the group’s web site, so you can listen to them for free. One of those tracks, Gershwin’s Lady Be Good, sounds to me like clarinets playing the exact same saxophone quartet arrangement I’m familiar with. Not that that’s a bad thing—it’s a fine arrangement.
I do have a trouble hearing four different timbres in the sample tracks, which is seldom the case when I listen to saxophone quartets. Perhaps that’s why heterogeneous clarinet quartets are rare. Each member of Quartetto Italiano di Clarinetti does also play some soprano clarinet, so some of them may be doing so in the sample tracks. What do you think? (Please leave a comment, especially if you can think of a better term than heterogeneous.)
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.