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THE CLARINET FROM A TO Z
BY JEAN-CHRISTIAN MICHEL
CLARINETTIST AND COMPOSER *
 

Clarinet

Clarinet's ball

Clarinet's barral

Clarinet's mouthpiece

Clarinet

Clarinet face Bell of the clarinet Barrel of the clarinet Mouthpiece

Clarinet verso

THE CLARINET FROM A TO Z EXPLAINED WITHOUT PREJUDICE
SCORES, FREE MP3 AND MIDI FILES FOR CLARINET

 
   DESCRIPTION OF THE CLARINET

Clarinet comes from the Latin clarus "light". It is an instrument relatively unknown to the public.

Nevertheless, with its register of more than three octaves and its exceptional ability to communicate the most subtle nuances of human breath, it astounds through the beauty of its timbre and its expressive force. Could it be that one day it will be quoted among the most beautiful instruments of the world ?

The clarinet, of the woodwind family of instruments, consists of 4 hollow pieces of ebony - the upper and lower joints, a barrel and a bell - which fit together to make up a beautiful assemblage.

A ligature holds a simple reed to the mouthpiece. Below the upper body, an indispensable key allows access to the twelve lowest notes, thus enlarging considerably the range of the instrument.

   HISTORY OF THE CLARINET

THE ANCESTORS OF THE CLARINET AND THE CHALUMEAU

Well before Christian era, in ancient Egypt, Greece, and India, wind instruments, with reeds and holes already existed. It is these that will one day develop into the clarinet.

To whom should we attribute the invention of the clarinet? In fact, the archaic instruments of the antiquity were gradually perfected, evolving in stages throughout the centuries.

From the middle ages in Europe the chalumeau was used in pastoral music. It was a rudimentary instrument without a bell and only 8 or 9 holes and with a register barely exceeding one octave. The reed, built into a small tube, was not in contact with the lips - the musician blew through a sort of pipe - which emitted a sound without much soul or character.

The chalumeau is nevertheless the origin of the entire woodwind family.

THE CLARINET FROM DENNER TO TODAY

At the beginning of 18th century, German instrument maker DENNER replaced the tube by a mouthpiece, with a ligatured reed. He shaped a cylindrical body and a bell. He added the famous "twelfth hole" with its two corresponding keys... The clarino - which really prefigured the clarinet - had been born, with henceforth three registers : the upper, the medium and the clarion.

Various innovations were to take place in the next two centuries. In 1812 Müller perfected the instrument and produced a clarinet with 13 keys. This new creation greatly eased the task of clarinettists and brought a renewal of interest in the clarinet.

THE CLARINET ADAPT THE BOEHM SYSTEM

In 1844, KLOSÉ, a clarinet professor at the Conservatoire of PARIS and concert performer, particularly well-known to young clarinettists for his Method, adapted the BOEHM system of mobile rings used on the flute to the clarinet. He also added the barrel, to refine the accuracy of the instrument, and created - very nearly - the modern clarinet.

   THE VARIOUS SORTS OF CLARINETS

The clarinet is a transposed instrument : the "la" of the clarinet does not correspond to the "la" of the piano. Clarinets of various lengths and timbres appear according to the needs of the orchestra.

In fact the clarinet family covers almost the entire orchestral range. The most common clarinet is the B flat. The family from bass to treble classifies as follows :

Contra Alto clarinet in E-flat
Bass clarinet in B-flat
Alto clarinet in E-flat
Bassette clarinet in A or clarinet horn in A
A clarinet
B-flat clarinet
A-flat clarinet
C clarinet
D clarinet
E-flat clarinet
Sopranino A-flat clarinet
The clarinet
 
   THE CLARINET IN DIFFERENTS MUSICAL STYLES

THE CLARINET FOR THE COMPOSERS OF CLASSICAL MUSIC : CLASSICAL CLARINET

Numerous Classical music composers quickly became interested in the new timbre of the clarinet.

As early as 1716 Vivaldi used it to replace the oboe, then, to quote but a few: RAMEAU, then WEBER, SPOHR, YOST ( These last three composers sacrificing depth to volubility ), BEETHOVEN then LISZT, SCHUMAN, STRAUSS, BERG, MENDELSSOHN, DEBUSSY, MASSENET, STRAVINSKY ( superb in his Rite of Spring ), DEBUSSY, D'INDY, SAINT-SAENS use it in their compositions.

The true masterpieces for clarinet are those of MOZART. His Quintet in A, his extremely beautiful Concerto in A maj, his Trio in E flat not to mention the Enchanted Flute and his Adagio for two clarinets and basset horn, all attract unlimited admiration. His masterpiece, although unfinished, is doubtless his Requiem ( which shows his love of the Clarinet Bassett Horn ).
At this level of music, MOZART employs the clarinet with an incredible joy and takes emotion in the limits of purity and depth.

THE CLARINET FOR JAZZ MUSICIANS : JAZZ CLARINET

The clarinet has been a part of Jazz bands since the beginning of 20th century.

It may be argued that the clarinet in Jazz lacks the magnificence that it achieves in MOZART's compositions, but we can still love it as a different but very beautiful instrument.

Let's allow ourselves a little departure : Jazz is anything but boring : it is created on the instant, but does not die with it. It is only necessary to agree to open the spirit, to release the somewhat fixed forms of Classical music, in brief to open another point of view.

Who indeed can boast of really loving Music without being moved by BACH and MOZART, but also without enjoying the distinctive playing of Louis ARMSTRONG ?

The sound's work, absent in the traditional classical technique, opens a new musical universe extremely rich in expression and emotion. The syncopated and extremely imaginative phrasing contributes to the beat and to the life of the piece, and when the clarinet appears and embroiders the counterpoint, it is poignant and vertiginous, pulling us towards an admirable light...

We remember the names of Johnny DOODS, impressing as much by his coolness as by his emotional force, Sidney BECHET, operatic and powerful, Mezz MEZZROW, Barney BIGARD, Jimmy NOONE, Albert NICHOLAS...

THE CLARINET FOR JAZZ/CLASSICAL CROSS-OVER MUSICIANS : JEAN-CHRISTIAN MICHEL.

Jean-Christian MICHEL, clarinettist, naturally composes mainly for his own instrument, the clarinet. He already has more than a hundred works in his repertoire. The themes and varied clarinet pieces, the organ recitals, the luxurious returning chords arouse emotions whose depth always amazes.

In his interpretation, Jean-Christian MICHEL offers a new clarinet sound, between Classical and Jazz. Like Jazz musicians, he uses a phrasing and an extreme expressiveness which open the way to a world of continually renewed surprises.

Among Jean-Christian MICHEL's works, the magnificent Concerto of Port Maria is absolutely unmissable and also his original pieces for organ, clarinet, synthesizers, bass and drums, such his "Vision d'Ezéchiel", "Eve des Origines" or "Les Paraboles de l'Espace"…and also Aranjuez's concerto !

   SOME ESSENTIAL LISTENING FOR THE CLARINET ON CD

CLASSICAL MUSIC, JAZZ - JAZZ/CLASSICAL CROSS-OVER, JAZZ/SACRED MUSIC CROSS-OVER

CLASSICAL MUSIC CDs

MOZART : Sinfonia concertante - Concerto for clarinet. Clarinet : Dieter KLÖCKER - MDG / FNAC

MOZART : Concertos for clarinet, oboe and bassoon. Clarinet : Jacques LANCELOT - Erato ECD 54022

MOZART : Quintet for clarinet K.581, trio for clarinet K498. Clarinet : Walter BOEYKENS - Harm. mundi.

MOZART : Requiem d-moll K V 626. Herbert von KARAJAN - Deutsche Grammophon No 419 610-2

MOZART, BRAHMS: Quintets with clarinet. Clarinet : Jean-Claude VEILHAN K 617/ FNAC

BRAHMS : Sonatas for clarinet and piano N°1 and N°2 Sonata for piano N°3. Clarinet : Paul MEYER

DEBUSSY : Rhapsody for clarinet and orchestra. Clarinet: Franklin COHEN - De. Grammophon.

STRAVINSKY : The Rite of Spring. BOULEZ, London Symphony Orchestra, DVD INFO on the Web

JAZZ CDs

DODDS : Johnny DODDS, clarinet, 603 JD on 1927 , 617 JD 1927 - Classic Series

ARMSTRONG : The 20s, Johnny DODDS, clarinet - the geniuses of Jazz - Editions Atlas 2001

BECHET : "Blue horizon", Sidney BECHET, clarinet and soprano-sax - Blue Note BN 285161

BECHET-MEZZROW : Mezz MEZZROW, clarinet, Sidney BECHET, soprano-sax and clarinet - Storyville

MEZZROW : Mezz à la Schola Cantorum 1954: Mezz in Paris 54, Mezz MEZZROW, clarinet - Jazztime

PERUNA JAZZMEN : play the music of King OLIVER, Klaus FORCHHAMMER, clarinet - BCD 436

SACRED MUSIC/JAZZ CROSS-OVER : JEAN-CHRISTIAN MICHEL's CDs.

Jean-Christian MICHEL : Port Maria, J-Chr. MICHEL, clarinet - Monique THUS, organ and synthesizer - G- Records

Jean-Christian MICHEL : "@ranjuez" J-Chr. MICHEL, clarinet - Monique THUS, organ and synthesizer - G-Records

Jean-Christian MICHEL : Musique de Lumière, MICHEL, clarinet - Monique THUS, organ and synthes - G-Records


   CLARINET SCORES 
 

Music

(PLEASE, SEE THE SCORES PAGE, OR IF YOU SPEAK FRENCH THE PAGE "PARTITIONS")


 
   FREE CLARINET's MIDI FILES

- TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ARRANGEMENTS FOR CLARINET

CLASSICAL MUSIC SCORES FOR PIANO : JS BACH, MOZART...

Listening with Windows Media Player : Click on the link.

Downloading : Click on the link / Windows media : Download as [...] / Download it !

01 - Transcription and arrangement for clarinet and organ from the Choral BWV 707 of J-S BACH
- [ My Soul longeth to depart in Peace BWV 707 ] J-S BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
02 - Transcription and arrangement for clarinet and organ from the choral BWV 710 of J-S BACH
[ BWV 709 ] J-S BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
03 - Transcription and arrangement for clarinet and organ from the Trio en Ut mineur BWV 585 of J-S BACH
[ Trio in C minor BWV 585 ] Jean-Sébastien BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL 
04 - Transcription and arrangement for clarinet and organ from the Prélude in A of Jean-Sébastien BACH
- [ Prélude in A ] - Jean-Sébastien BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
05 - Transcription for clarinet of "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" BWV 147 from J-S BACH
[ Jesus bleibet meine Freude - BWV 147 ] - J-S BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
06 -  Transcription for clarinet of Aria BWV 1068 from J-S BACH
[ Aria from the suite in D BWV 1068 ] - J-S BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
07 -  Transcription for clarinet of Cantata BWV 144 from J-S BACH
[ Cantata BWV 144 ] - J-S BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
08 -  Transcription and arrangement for clarinet and organ from the concerto in D minorl  of J-S BACH
[ Concerto in D minor ] - J-S BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
09 - Sonate 4 from J-S BACH
[ Sonata 4 ] - J-S BACH / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
10 - Arrangement from Concerto for clarinet from MOZART KV 622
[ Concerto for clarinet KV 622 ] W.A MOZART / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
11 -Arrangement for clarinet - Adagio of Aranjuez's Concerto from Joaquin RODRIGO
- [ Aranjuez ] J. RODRIGO - / Arrgt J-Chr. MICHEL
12 -Arrangement for piano - Traditionnal Gospel
- [ Gospel Song ] Traditionnal
 
   MANUFACTURE OF THE CLARINET

A clarinet "factory" is simultaneously, curiously imprinted by modernism and by a tradition of craftsmanship.

A block of ebony, initially rough-hewed, is to be turned into a clarinet. After turning on a lathe and drilling, it is stored and dried for a year. Then the wood is cut to in its definitive dimensions and ollowed with the holes being drilled.

After a damp-proofing treatment by pressurised linseed oil, imperfections are sealed with resin. The internal bore of the clarinet is carefully finalised: this work is carried out with chisels, gouges and other computer-controlled sizing instruments. Usually the wood is then stained ( to hide any imperfections of the wood ), or left natural which is more stylish, (the ebony being not absolutely black, but of a deep brown colour ).

The metal pieces of the clarinet, made of nickel silver, are assembled by silver-welding. Balls, keys and springs are fitted manually. Then the pre-set keys are silvered plated, polished and re-attached. Pads ( at present made of Goretex ) are stuck on using wax. Cork seals and felts are the last to be ffixed. After final checks, the clarinet is ready to be tried out...

Today, the workmanship of the clarinet continues to evolve, in several different ways. For example, research continues to improve the accuracy of its tuning. The implementation of additional rods aims to protect certain plugs from condensation and to improve the corking and the quality of the sound. Finally, synthesized materials based on powdered ebony, carbon fibre and resin; allow the construction of bodies ( such as the Green series - Buffet-Crampon line ) which are not prone to splitting.

    INTERPRETATION ON THE CLARINET

Learning is one of the greatest joys in the life, and particularly in the musical art. Indeed contrary to that which one studies in certain disciplines ( where the spirit burdens itself with superfluous details ) everything is useful in the music.

On the technical side, mastering the clarinet demands years and years of work and effort : it is necessary to learn to breathe, to control the breath, to work continually on the dexterity of the fingers in order to obtain the total control of the sound and to acquire the freedom of automatism. The clarinettist will try to obtain his own tone, round, warm, imprinted by sensibility, and, if possible,original.

The artist will then be able to begin "playing music". Because it is not enough to align notes in a technically perfect fashion to make music : it is necessary to transcend this stage and, in the most magnificent liberty, to use technique to sensitively express feelings.Having analysed the global spirit of the piece, the artist will attempt to express their imagination in sound with all the fibres of their personality. By suggesting a note in the breath or on the contrary by stressing it to highlight it, by speeding up or slowing down imperceptibly a phrase, they will learn ow to give magnetism and colour to the musical phrase and instil his own magic.

The chain of notes will then merge in the universal harmony and will then be able to generate this poetry that we call Music.Naturally then, all the greatest joys are available to one that knows how to play Music !

A "true" Music get across to the audience and its emotion always touches the public...

   THE CLARINETTIST
 
  Jean-Christian Michel

The clarinettist is an instrumentalist who plays the clarinet. But what distinguishes him from the ther musicians ?

- The clarinettist is often represented as a tall and rangy being, in the same way as the bassist appears somehow to be a more massive, fatter person. Maybe, by analogy with the range of instruments... But, joking aside, there is no rule in this field !-As we saw it before, the clarinet is a transposed instrument and consequently the clarinettist will be always called upon to transpose ( except if he uses the small clarinet in C ). The majority of the clarinettists who use the clarinet in B flat are not worried by transposing from C to B flat, because hey have long experience of it.

- In the classical orchestra, the clarinet appears next to flutes, oboe and bassoons. The sound of classical clarinet must be played pure and straight, according to the rules of the conservatoire. The clarinettist is widely appreciated as a soloist and if it was necessary to verify that, you could listen day and night to the MOZART's sublime "Concerto for clarinet" !

- In the Jazz band, the trumpeter generally exposes the theme and the clarinettist embroiders everything all around. The "contrechant" of clarinet is a real improvised counter-point, and demonstrates all the harmony's science and the talent of the Jazz clarinettist. Naturally, there is nothing to prevent the clarinettists from exposing the theme themself. Because it is, of course, easy for the clarinettist to take the leading part when he asserts himself as soloist, in trio or in quartet... Naturally, the Jazz clarinettist uses all the possibilities of the expressiveness and sound's work.
- Finally, in Jean-Christian MICHEL's music, the clarinettist is the leader of the group and uses the fusion of the timbres of the clarinet with those of the orchestration, for the synthesis of a new sound. Like in the Jazz, he exploits profoundly the resources of this expressiveness.

In every case the clarinet, through its tone, its wide range's wide area and its expressiveness, always appears like a magnificent instrument which allows the clarinettist to open the floodgates of flow the deepest and the most subtle feelings.

WELL KNOWN CLARINETTISTS

The clarinettist Jean-Christian MICHEL suggests here some famous performers in Classical music and Jazz :

• CLASSICAL MUSIC CLARINETTISTS :

Anton STADLER ( MOZART's clarinettist ), Hyacinthe KLOSÉ, Guy DEPLUS, Franklin COHEN, ALAIN DAMIENS, Michel ARRIGNON, Jacques LANCELOT, Walter BOEYKENS, Dieter KLÖCKER, Sergio BOSI, Jörg WIDMANN...

• JAZZ CLARINETTISTS :

Johnny DODDS, Jimmy NOONE, Milton "Mezz" MEZZROW, Albert NICHOLAS, Benny GOODMAN, Sidney BECHET, Albany "Barney" BIGARD, Claude LUTER, Dr Michael WHITE, Buddy de FRANCO, Michel PORTAL, Tony SCOTT, Eric DOLPHY, Jimmy GIUFFRE,James CARTER, Don BYRON, Jan GARBAREK...

Clarinet's case

Clarinets in their case


• NEW VIDEOS OF JEAN-CHRISTIAN MICHEL

WATCH THE VIDEO CLIPS OF JEAN-CHRISTIAN MICHEL

 
CHURCH CONCERT VIDEO  
 
GALAXIES MUSIC VIDEO CLIP  
 
CONCERT IN MARSEILLE  
 
TV INTERVIEW  
NEW CLIP OF JS BACH'S MUSIC
 
J-CHRISTIAN MICHEL's INTERVIEW  

DISCOVER ALL THE DISCS AND CDs OF JEAN-CHRISTIAN MICHEL

SITE MAP

SEE ALSO OUR FRENCH WEBSITE : 20 PAGES ON THE CLARINET

(*) Jean-Christian MICHEL is clarinettist and composer. He is "Full Member of the SACEM" ( Association of composers and music publishers ). He has worked on interpretation with Guy DEPLUS, clarinet professor at the "Conservatoire national de Paris". In addition to his concerts, Jean-Christian MICHEL continues to give master-classes, when his schedule permits. Former surgeon, Internationally celebrated composer and clarinettist, he has received the prize for "Science and Culture" in Sorbonne - Paris (6 Nobel prize-winners on the Jury).

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