Sniffing out Basset Horns

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.

But basset horns are like needles in haystacks.  Clarinettists usually own the full range of clarinets and sometimes they own saxophones, but not basset horns.  So how to find not just one, but two?

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.

Saturday April 16th – 7.30 pm Cardinal Cerretti Chapel

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Overture to the Magic Flute
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Requiem in D Minor
Sergei Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major – Soloist: Alexandra Loukianova

We are very fortunate that our soloists for the Mozart Requiem are unchanged from the wonderful line up for our last concert.  We welcome them back.

Click here for tickets or telephone 9451 0595 or 9977 4776

Manly Warringah Choir Concert Flyer –  How to get to Cardinal Cerretti Chapel