CLARINETS IN A, B-FLAT OR C, FIVE TO TWELVE KEYS
BASSET HORNS IN F, EIGHT TO FIFTEEN KEYS
Before establishing himself as one of the finest clarinet builders in Vienna, Raymund Griesbacher was contracted to play clarinet and basset horn by leading ensembles in Austria and Hungary, including Haydn’s orchestra at Esterhaza. He was appointed instrument supplier to the Imperial Court in 1800 and by 1807 his instruments were among the most sought after in Europe.
Griesbacher’s clarinets are perhaps the most comfortable of all historical clarinets. The register keys are rather close to the body of the instrument compared to other originals, the finger holes are very close together, making them ideal for players with small hands, and these relatively light instruments are among the earliest to have built in thumb rests. The surviving Griesbacher clarinets in original condition range from five to nine keys, though at least two were updated sometime in the nineteenth century to 12 keys.
Griesbacher’s early instruments have the wide bores common to Viennese makers, but later in his career he built A and B-flat clarinets with relatively narrow bores, roughly the same size as Grenser or Griessling & Schlott. He also mounted the keys in wooden blocks rather than the brass saddles favored by most other makers in Vienna. The bore profile and the spacing of the finger holes are unmistakably Viennese and he continued to make slender, light-weight instruments.
The C clarinet is very similar to the Merklein model but the bore is slightly smaller and keys are mounted in wooden blocks.