When I was in Italy, I attended ClarinetFest in Assisi. I was able to attend a number of wonderful performances by clarinetists from all over the world.
With so many performances, it’s hard to stand out. Everyone does play the clarinet, after all!
One of the most memorable groups was the Banda Bassetti, from Italy. This group is made up of nearly 20 musicians who are all playing basset horns, bass clarinets, or contrabass clarinets. What a unique sound! The basset horn is about halfway in between the size of a Bb clarinet and a bass clarinet, although because it has a curved neck and a bell, it looks more like a small bass clarinet.
Because all of the instruments are quite a bit lower than your usual clarinet choir configuration, the sound of the ensemble is very mellow and quite pleasant to hear.
The funniest part about this group is their performance attire! They all look a bit like Italian bandits, and every person has a different number emblazoned on his red t-shirt. I wish I knew the explanation for the outfits and the significance of the numbers, but unfortunately my Italian language skills are still pretty miserable. My best guess is that the numbers on their shirts match up with the serial numbers of their instruments. I hope that someone from La Banda Bassetti will correct me if I am wrong!
Italian jazz clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi performed as a soloist with the group, and I really enjoyed his style and facility.
While it’s true that jazz is a truly American musical artform, it doesn’t mean that Americans are the only ones who know how to play jazz!
Grazie mille to all those involved with ClarinetFest 2013 for creating such an enriching and entertaining experience!