How would a clarinetist go about searching for a piece from the Medieval to the very end of the Baroque period? Well, that clarinetist should first realize that the repertoire from this timeframe is incredibly difficult to find on the internet. Not only that, the clarinet did not come into existence until around the 1700s, which would give it a mere fifty years in order to develop any sort of solo literature. So, how would one go about looking for early music to perform?
Researching the predecessors of the clarinet would be the first step. From the Middle Ages to the Baroque, an instrument called the albogue or alboka was prominent around the Basque region in the western Pyrenees, a region between France and Spain. This instrument is a wind instrument being made of a wooden tube with a mouth piece and bell made from animal horn with uses a single reed to produce the sound.
From the Baroque to around 1700, the chalumeau began to come to light and was the instrument that leads to the creation of the clarinet. The chalumeau is also a single-reed instrument. A cylindrical body with a total of eight tone holes, seven on the front of the instrument, and one on the back called the speaker key. The speaker key is the modern day equivalent of the register key on the clarinet. The chalumeau began to appear in music during the 1630s, originating in France and would soon spread into Germany by the latter half of the Baroque.
The chalumeau did have a weakness however, being that due to the positions of the tone holes, the instrument had only a range of twelve notes. Musicians would then counteract this by creating multiple sizes of the chalumeau to produce a range from the bass to the soprano. By doing so, the chalumeau became an established instrument in the musical world by 1700. Though, looking for music for the chalumeau still remains difficult.
Now, starting around the 1730s, a man by the name of Iwan Muller would develop the 13-keyed model of the clarinet. The clarinet would then become distinguishable from the chalumeau and with the number of improvements, became just as popular as the chalumeau, if not more. Johann Christoph Denner, a well-known instrument maker, tinkered with the clarinet. Denner found that by changing the size of the tone holes and inserting a small tube to facilitate with overblowing, he had increased the range of the clarinet to about three octaves. Denner also increased the length of the clarinet and gave a larger bell connected to the foot joint to better the accuracy of tuning. It should be noted that the Baroque clarinet did not use the same system of fingering as the modern clarinet.
Despite having a larger range than the chalumeau, composers still preferred the chalumeau when it came to the lower register sound. Having been developed, the clarinet was still experimented on and would completely replace the chalumeau during the Classical Period. But, this is a story for another time. The information to take in from...