Basset Horn in F

Johann Gottlieb Freyer German

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 681

The basset horn, usually pitched in G or F, exceeds the lower range of the regular clarinet by a major third. To keep its size manageable, some of its tubing takes the form of a kasten (box) containing three connected channels. The basset horn saw its heyday in the Classical orchestra as a low melody instrument in place of—or with—the clarinet. Mozart used it repeatedly and explored its spiritual sound quality
Johann Gottlieb Freyer (born Potsdam ca. 1764, died Potsdam 14 December 1808) was the son of a well-known woodwind instrument maker in Potsdam. As he was only six years old when his father died, he trained with F. G. A. Kirst and continued his workshop after 1804. Potsdam was the residence of the Prussian King and the military base of the Prussian armee. An important music school for the army was also present in Potsdam. Freyer’s workshop was in the ‘hollaendisches Viertel’, a modern centre of commerce in that time.

Overall size: 834
Bore: c-hole 14.8

Technical description: Boxwood with ivory ferrules and elbow joint, and brass keywork and bell. Five pieces: mouthpiece, bend barrel, upper section, elbow joint, lower section with integral book and bell. Blackwood mouthpiece with some grooves for cord probably original. Straight speaker, speaker liner projects ca. 4 mm into the bore. C♯4/G♯5 for R1 mounted on the ivory elbow joint is a later addition. It is mounted on a saddle whereas all other keywork is mounted in blocks and square respectively round turned wooden rings. A brass protection that should prevent the key from being damaged is also screwed into the elbow joint therefor it can’t be removed from the lower section now. Whereas all flaps are flat square this flap has a different shape. Open standing key flaps on the book featured with a bevelled guard to protect them from damages. Three keys holes bored into the book. Sling ring on the back of the lower section.

L0:   T; speaker.
L1:   T; throat A♮.
L2:   T.
L3:   T.
L4:   E3/B♮4; F♯3/C♯5.
R0:   D3; C3.
R1:   T; C♯4/G♯5.
R2:   T.
R3:   T.
R4:   T; G♯3/E♭5.

Keyhead type: flat square, oval square.

Keymount type: turned wooden rings, blocks, saddle.

Inscribed on barrel, upper section, lower section and book with Prussian eagle, "I.G. FREYER / POTSDAM" / sunburst.

Playing accessories: a reed and cord, not original.

C♯4/G♯5 is a later addition.

(Heike Fricke, 2014)

#William McColl, clarinet, 2004

Basset Horn in F, Johann Gottlieb Freyer (German, Potsdam ca. 1764–1808 Potsdam), Boxwood, ivory, brass, German

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.