A few words from Richard …
It wasn’t a very clear line, but when I thought I heard Marj say that she might have some difficulty finding two Basset Hounds for the Mozart Requiem, my mind went into overdrive. Basset Hounds? Those stocky dogs with long ears used to sniff out errant animals and illicit substances? There must be some mistake!
Indeed there was a mistake – a mistake in my hearing. It was Basset Horns Marj was trying to find, not Basset Hounds. The Requiem is one of three works in which Mozart’s score calls for basset horns rather than clarinets. The instruments are similar – both use single reeds – and had been developed fairly recently, so I guess Mozart wanted to try them both out to compare their characteristics.
Basset horns are rather like a bass clarinet. Whereas saxophones, also single reeds, sound brighter and more colourful that clarinets, basset horns sound mellower. It’s not that much of a difference, but it is noticeable, and, Mozart being Mozart, he probably chose them for the Requiem because he wanted that particular sound.
After interminable phone calls, texts, and emails with our many contacts and in turn with their contacts, including instrumentalists, orchestras, and music schools, it appeared that there is just one basset horn in the Sydney area available for hire in April. Further consultations with Carlos, and with our two clarinettists, Natascha and Ben, revealed that orchestras sometimes use one basset horn and one clarinet, so that will be the line up for our performance on April 16th.
Marj says that assembling an orchestra is, on the whole, straightforward, especially as Manly Warringah Choir has a lengthy list of highly competent musicians who enjoy playing with us. But 90 percent of the effort is spent on 10 percent of the instruments. The case of the basset horns proves the point. And I think that our skilled researchers sniffed out the basset horns better than any basset hound might have done.