This is not only a review of a new piece but also a publisher: Trio Bassoso by the Dutch flutist Hans Tobel for three bass clarinets published by the American publisher Alea (Tacoma, Washington) which is run by Kimberly Davenport, pianist and her father, Michael Davenport, bass clarinet.

And it is a publisher that has been close to my heart for several years. Kimberly and Michael have built up an excellent library with appropriate transcriptions for bass clarinet of classical pieces and also a number of titles originally written for bass clarinet, for example Trio Bassoso, which Hans Tobel composed for his wife (who teaches clarinet), and two of her students.

The good thing about Alea, I think, is that rather than targeting eccentric 'highbrow' new compositions for (very) advanced bassists, they publish truly playable music at different levels. I have gradually acquired a nice collection of their publications, ranging from baroque duets, pieces by Haydn, a Contest Album with performance pieces by Lully, Tartini, Vivaldi and Rachmaninov, the famous Elegie by Gabriel Faure, and especially - and that appeals to me as a Bachophile - some quite good arrangements of pieces by Bach: three cello sonatas, the Concerto in C minor by his son JC Bach and - of course - the acclaimed cello suites. These had already been issued for clarinet, most notably by Alphonse Leduc, but with many inappropriate octave shifts (because the range of the ordinary clarinet) and deletions (associated with the double stops of the cello). Alea's publication remains closest to the original cello and is therefore for me one of the treasures of Alea's collection.

Purchasing is easy. The scores are, I think, created in Finale and then encased in a simple spiral ring band. The layout is very good, including blank pages to facilitate page turns. And I have yet to find a typo. Best of all, the Alea website [www.bassclarinet.org] works perfectly and orders usually arrive within one week.

This small but brave (and beautiful) label now also includes the Trio Bassoso Opus 13 by the Dutchman Hans Tobel (1966-). Trio Bassoso is traditional in structure in terms of notation, range, melodic and tonal range (mostly in the low register), but is challenging because the choice of time signatures: 5/8, 8/8, 9/8.

And that is an interesting feature of this work: accessible for students to absorb, but also featuring distinct new musical features. Moreover, Trio Bassoso is truly composed for three bass clarinets and not suitable for three regular clarinets because, particularly in the lower voice, but also in the other voices, much use is made of the extended range capability of the bass clarinet.

- Maarten Mestrom
de Klarinet

May/June 2011; Vol.13, No.74