Basset Horn English
Bassethorn German
Bassetthorn German
Cor de Basset French
Corno Basso Italian?
Corno di Bassetto Italian

The orchestral Bassethorn, a tenor member of the Clarinet family, was first made in Germany in 1770. The organ stop of the same name is most commonly an imitative reed stop similar to the Clarinet, found at 8' pitch and occasionally 16'. Though a few sources consider the Bassethorn to be synonymous with the Clarinet, the former is usually of larger scale, fuller and richer in tone. Töpfer, according to Audsley, describes it as a flue, not a reed, but no flue examples are known. It was often included in 19th century German instruments, usually as a free reed at 8' or 16', sometimes without resonators. It was uncommon in England, and was invariably made there as a striking reed. According to Sumner, Henry Willis I made hundreds of examples, which Audsley considered to be the most successful. While sometimes of inverted conical form, the resonators of the Bassethorn are usually cylindrical, sometimes with bells as shown in Audsley's illustration reproduced here.


Corno Bassetto, Soprano
Double Basset Horn
Octave Basset Horn


Osiris contains five dozen examples of Corno di Bassetto, fourteen examples of Basset[t] Horn, and two of Cor de Basset. About a third are at 16' pitch, the rest being at 8' except for one each at 4' and 2'. No examples are known of Corno Basso (mentioned only by Wedgwood). Contributions welcome.

Bassethorn 8', Manual III; St. James Church, Stockholm, Sweden; Strand 1840. This is the earliest known example.

Basset-Horn 8', Second Pedal; Ulm Cathedral, Munster, Germany; Walcker 1856. This example a free reed without resonators.

Basset Horn 8', Echo; Town Hall, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Hill 1886.

Bassetthorn 8', Schwell-Pedal; Cathedral, Riga, Latvia; Walcker 1883 (restored 1983).

Corno di Bassetto 8', Choir; Town Hall, Glasgow, Scotland; Gray & Davison 1853, 1855, 1876.

Corno di Bassetto 8', Choir; St. Dominic's Priory, Haverstock Hill, London, England; Willis 1867, 1883.

Corno di Bassetto 16', Choir; Royal Albert Hall, London, England; Willis 1872.

Cor de basset 8', Positif Expressif; St. Eustache, Paris, France; Rinckenbach 1927. This example was made by Henry Willis.

Sound Clips

See the Sound Files appendix for general information.

Corno di Bassetto 8', Choir Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA Aeolian-Skinner, 1933 St. Anne


Audsley[1]: Basset-Horn; Cor de Basset; Corno di Bassetto. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Basset-Horn; Cor de Basset; Corno di Bassetto; II.XXXVIII Corno di Bassetto. Bonavia-Hunt[1]: Clarinet; Corno di Bassetto. Grove[1]: Corno. Hopkins & Rimbault[1]: § 650-651. Irwin[1]: Basset Horn. Locher[1]: Corno di Bassetto; Serpent. Maclean[1]: Basset Horn. Skinner[1]: 60; XII Corno di Bassetto. Sumner[1]: Clarinet; Corno di Bassetto. Wedgwood[1]: Bassett Horn; Clarinet.
Copyright © 1999 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
BassetHorn.html - Last updated 17 May 2008.
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