All About the Clarinet d’Amore?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What better way to celebrate than by taking a look at this historical clarinet which has been making a recent comeback?

Throughout the clarinet’s existence, the clarinet family tree has seen several additions in nearly every key, from the tiny A-flat clarinet to the mighty octo-contrabass clarinet.

One peculiar member of the clarinet family is the clarinet d’amore (sometimes spelled clarinet d’amour) – literally the “love” clarinet.

The clarinet d’amore was developed around the mid-18th century in Germany, and is most recognizable by its bulbous bell, which is similar to that of an English horn. (Fun fact: this bell is called Liebesfuss in German, which literally translates to love foot) The clarinet d’amore gradually faded from use after about 100 years, largely due to the popularity of other auxiliary clarinets, such as the basset horn and bass clarinet.

The clarinets d’amore are bigger than the standard B-flat and A clarinets, which is why they feature a curved neck to facilitate easier performance. Historical clarinets d’amore were pitched in G, although there were some pitched in other keys. Some historians believe that the clarinet d’amore served as inspiration for the basset horn, which was first seen in the latter half of the 18th century

The clarinet d’amore was popular in the 18th and 19th century, and there are a number of surviving instruments in museums today. One notable builder of clarinets d’amore was Wilhelm Heckel (of bassoon fame), who built clarinets d’amore with up to 14 keys.

Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the clarinet d’amore, with companies such as Schwenk & Seggelke fabricating modern clarinets d’amore. (You can hear Richard Haynes perform a modern clarinet d’amore here.)

If you want to learn more about the clarinet d’amore and other members of the clarinet family, you should check out clarinet scholar Albert Rice’s book From the Clarinet D’Amour to the Contra Bass: A History of the Large Size Clarinets, 1740-1860.

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