Sopranino Clarinet
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Sopranino Clarinet

The A-flat (A) clarinet is a member of the clarinet family, smaller and sounding a perfect fourth higher than the E clarinet. The A is rare, but even less common, obsolete instruments in high C and A are listed by Sir Nicholas Shackleton. Some writers call the A and these other instruments octave clarinets, sopranino clarinets, or piccolo clarinets. The boundary between the octave and soprano clarinets is not well-defined, and the rare instruments in G and F might be considered as either. Shackleton, along with many early twentieth-century composers, uses the term "piccolo clarinet" to refer to the E and D clarinets as well (piccolo merely meaning "small" in Italian). This designation is less common today, with the E and D instruments more usually designated soprano clarinets. The term "piccolo clarinet" is used by some recent music software (e.g., Finale) for the A clarinet.

The A clarinet is pitched a minor seventh higher than the B clarinet. Its lowest note, E, sounds as concert middle C, the same as many concert flutes.

Clarinets pitched in A appeared frequently in European wind bands, particularly in Spain and Italy, at least through the middle of the 20th century, and are called for in the stage-band parts for several operas by Verdi.[1]

Cecil Forsyth associated the high instruments with Austria saying, "Clarinets in (high) F, and even in (high) A are occasionally used abroad. The latter instrument is regularly employed in the Austrian military bands."[2] A famous example of extensive use of a high clarinet in a Viennese small ensemble was the Schrammel quartet, consisting of two violins (the brothers Johann and Josef Schrammel), a bass guitar, and G clarinet, played by Georg Dänzer, during the 1880s.[1]

Size comparison among the A, E, and B clarinets

The A clarinet is not uncommon in clarinet choir arrangements--for instance, those of Lucien Cailliet, including Mozart's Marriage of Figaro overture--though the instrument is often optional or cued in other voices. There are parts for A clarinet in Béla Bartók's Scherzo for Piano and Orchestra, op. 2 ("mostly in unison with the E or piccolo [flute]") and in John Tavener's Celtic Requiem (1969).[1] Several chamber works of Hans-Joachim Hespos employ the A clarinet,[3] including the wild go which also features soprano sarrusophone, heckelphone, and tárogató. Hespos also uses the A clarinet in the orchestral work Interactions.[4]Matthijs Vermeulen's Symphony Nr. 4 has a part for A clarinet.[5]

Size comparison of the B, E, and A reeds; note the greater difference between A and E reed sizes than between E and B.

At least three manufacturers currently produce A clarinets: L. A. Ripamonti (featured in the pictures),[6]Orsi Instruments and Schwenk and Seggelke. Leblanc had produced A clarinets prior to their acquisition by Conn-Selmer in 2004, but has since ceased production.[7] Ripamonti produces both German and French system (including Full Boehm) A clarinets. Schwenk and Seggelke make German system clarinets in A and high G.


  1. ^ a b c Basil Tschaikov, "The high clarinets," in Colin Lawson, The Cambridge companion to the clarinet, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 52-55.
  2. ^ Forsyth, Orchestration, second edition, p. 281 (Dover Reprint) ISBN 978-0-486-24383-2
  3. ^ "Hans-Joachim Hespos - Complete work (engl.) - Ensemble works". Hans-Joachim Hespos web site. Retrieved .
  4. ^ "Hans-Joachim Hespos - Complete work (engl.) - Orchestral works". Hans-Joachim Hespos web site. Retrieved .
  5. ^ "Symfonie nr4 - partituur netschrift". Matthijs Vermeulen. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ L. A. Ripamonti's A clarinet page
  7. ^ Post by Diz to the Clarinet List, 2003-06-27 based on information from Leblanc Sydney


External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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