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basset horn

basset horn. Alto cl. in F (occasionally in G), whole tone higher than E♭ alto cl., with a total possible compass of 4 complete octaves. Invented c.1765 and used by Mozart in Requiem, Die Zauberflöte, La Clemenza di Tito and his masonic pieces. He first used it 1781 in the Serenade in B♭ (K361). Beethoven (Prometheus) and Mendelssohn (Scottish Symphony) wrote for it, but after 1850 it was replaced by the E♭ alto cl. Richard Strauss revived it in his operas Elektra (1906–8) and Daphne (1936–7), and for his 2 wind sonatinas comp. 1943 and 1945. A transposing instr., its name is said to derive from a Bavarian term for small bass, and the basset-hound was named after the sound it makes. The It. term corno di bassetto was adopted by Bernard Shaw as his pseudonym when writing mus. criticism.

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