Clarinet tone has not changed so much in 200+ years, but the equipment surely has improved.
The following single example defines the best of the period instrument recordings of the Mozart Concerto.
Played on a faithful reproduction of a period Bassett Clarinet like the one from Mozart's time played by his clarinettist inspiration, Anton Stadler, this recording claimed the high ground in the mid-1980s for historically informed performance practice of this music.
Yet to my ears, as admirable this performance is on a technically primitive instrument is, I find it annoyingly inconsistent in tone, pitch and finger/note clarity. If I didn't know and respect the effort, I'd say it was amateurish sounding.
Now you understand why I prefer to keep the soloists anonymous. As a public commentator I feel inhibited by politeness to refrain from too much honesty if I must announce the identity of the performer. After all, critics have been known to have been fired for too much negative "honesty" (I refer to the Cleveland Plain Dealer critic Donald Rosenberg's plight, another point of view HERE)
Yet, after all is said and done, the music making is of the highest caliper here, especially (not because) this is a performance on limited instruments compared to modern designs.
I'll leave it at that. Here is the performance, admirable in every respect except that it insisted on being historically correct above all. Here's to conservatism, excerpt when there is clearly a better way.
PS- Apologies for the image of a period Basset Horn rather than Basset Clarinet in A. Apparently there are no free public images of a period basset clarinet.
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