Clarinetist and instrument maker Eric Hoeprich joins the musicians of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival this weekend, when this year’s theme of “Schumann’s World” begins with works by the composer and those who influenced him. Included on the program is the Clarinet Quintet of Mozart, which uses a specially modified instrument that gives it an extra third of an octave at the bottom of its range.
You can find out more about the three weekends of programs at the Valley of the Moon Music Festival website.
Their specialty is performing Classical and Romantic Era music on authentic instruments, which gets tricky when it comes to winds. “I got a beautiful clarinet from Dresden from the late 18th Century,” Hoeprich says. “If I showed it to the maker, he would be horrified at the condition. Because wind instruments especially, they’re not like string instruments, they don’t age well. The combination of wood with moisture, which is inevitable when you’re playing the instrument…actually the wood deteriorates.” But since the 1970s, for his entire professional career, he’s been building instruments. That especially comes in handy if one wants to play works by Mozart as they were written. “Mozart wrote his two sort of big solo works for the clarinet, the Clarinet Quintet and the Clarinet Concerto for a friend of his, Anton Stadler, who had developed an instrument that had an extended low range… this instrument can play a third lower by the use of the thumb keys.” But it was an instrument that was only made for Stadler, and until 1996, musicologists couldn’t even be sure what it looked like. That’s when a musicologist found a program for a concert Stadler gave as part of a tour. “On the program, just absolutely astonishingly, there was a rendition, there was an engraving of his instrument. So we knew from that what the instrument would have looked like, and it had a kind of bulbous bell.”
Here’s a performance Eric Hoeprich gave with his basset clarinet, of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto: