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Bass Clarinet as soloist

Australian bass clarinet music

The bass clarinet has been a favourite instrument of Australian composers, many of whom have forged close working relationships with a growing cast of local players as well as international players such as Harry Sparnaay and Henri Bok.

A classic of the Australian bass clarinet repertory is without doubt Michael Smetanin's Ladder of Escape (1984) for 7 bass and 2 contra-bass clarinets (or bass clarinet and tape). Other composers with significant bass clarinet works include Brenton Broadstock, Gerard Brophy, Robert Dahm, Brett Dean, Chris Dench, Andrew Ford, Richard David Hames, Liza Lim, Paul Stanhope, Martin Wesley-Smith and Nigel Westlake – a composer and clarinettist whose bass clarinet works include the concerto Invocations (1995).

Bass clarinet teaching has traditionally taken second place to that of clarinet, but today's students are increasingly eager to study bass clarinet as a principal or second instrument. The evolution of non-orchestral opportunities in Australia and internationally has also meant that players are regarding the bass clarinet increasingly as a solo instrument.

Australian instrumentalists who have contributed to the repertory by performing and premiering works include Jonathan Craven, Ros Dunlop, Phillip Everall, Richard Haynes, Peter Jenkin, Sue Newsome, Jason Noble, Phillippa Robinson, Carl Rosman, Diana Tolmie and Floyd Williams.


This list of representative works for bass clarinet has been prepared in cooperation with Richard Haynes in 2009, with later works added.

Representative works

  Work Notes
Digital sheet music sample Scorn (2002) by Brendan Colbertan aggressive and virtuosic work for advanced players.
Digital sheet music sample Sacrifice (1996) by Stephen Cronina refined solo piece, based on an excerpt from Igor Stravinsky‘s The Rite of Spring. Sacrifice is an excellent articulation study in its use of fast staccato in the low register.
Digital sheet music sample Jump (1999) by Robert Davidsona pleasing work with a meandering, lyrical central section framed by two groovy, 'jumpy' outer sections. The work is good for overcoming the challenges of staccato and legato playing over larger intervals and becoming fluent in the altissimo register fingerings.
Digital sheet music sample Time (1981) by Chris Denchuses the musical idea of a 'cantilena'. Dynamic control and differentiation are of paramount importance in this piece.
Digital sheet music sample Entr'actes (1982) by Richard David Hamesuses complex rhythms and a microtonal pitch language. Entr'actes is a highly virtuosic, very expressive piece and almost theatrical in its intent.
Digital sheet music sample Les roses sanglantes (1990) by Gerard Brophy'the bloodied roses‘ is a gorgeous, colourful, yet dark piece for bass clarinet and chamber orchestra. It is one of Brophy's many impressive works for the instrument.
Malachite glass (1990) by Nigel Westlakeexplores ways of bringing the bass clarinet voice into the percussion ensemble sonority. It is demanding and exposed for the bass, tribal in gesture and evocative – as the title suggests – of caves, earth and malachite glass.
People of this Place (2016) by Felicity Wilcoxblends Western musical idioms with sonic references to an imagined pre-colonial world, to describe a sense of place around Sydney.
Digital sheet music sample All hail the machine (2011) by James Ledgeris the third in Ledger's series of pieces for solo instrument with live electronics. The idea of 'channel surfing' gives the piece its structure: an idea grows out of static, turning into a full-blown melody before abruptly changing into another idea.
As small birds play (2011) by Corrina Bonshekcan be performed with an optionall birdcall soundtrack recorded in Carpertee Valley, NSW. Level of difficulty: medium.

Broader categories of Bass Clarinet as soloist

Sibling categories of Bass Clarinet as soloist