In the clarinet part of the Villa-Lobos Quartet for flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon, there are a number of low e-flats. How is this usually handled? Does one need to get a clarinet with the low e-flat key or do some people play the entire piece on A clarinet and transpose?
I run a woodwind quartet which performs regularly. Of course, the Villa-Lobos quartet is standard repertoire. The composer himself played the clarinet at one stage in his life, and I very much suspect that he played a full boehm instrument - I think there's at least one other instance of his using such an instrument in his chamber music.
I don't have a full boehm instrument, and, when I first tackled the piece, I thought that maybe I could persuade the bassoonist to take the out of range notes, doing a swap, as it were. Unfortunately, this turned out to be impracticable. So, it was a case of shifting some notes around, or not playing the piece. The latter would have been such a shame considering that it's a fine piece of music in a very limited repertoire. I had, indeed, considered transposing everything on to the A clarinet, but this would have been far from ideal considering how well the part generally sits on the Bb instrument.
So, here's what I do:
1st movement: 2nd after figure 1, low Eb trill up an octave. 4th after figure 1 again up an octave. Same with the tremolo two before figure 3.
2nd movement: 4th bar after figure 5, the final semiquaver up an octave.
3rd movement: 6th bar after figure 4, I play an E natural rather an an Eb. 5th bar after figure 10, the low D# up an octave. 4th bar of figure 12, I make the low D# an F#.
So as you see, there are only a few alterations, and most of those are octave transpositions.
I hope you enjoy the piece!
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