Thesis (Open Access)
Bachelor of Arts in Music
The name Heinrich Joseph Baermann (1784-1847) is not particularly well known in the general world of music history. Born in Potsdam, Germany, Baermann attended the local military music school at the age of fourteen, where he began his study of the clarinet after originally studying the oboe. After joining a military band, participating in several battles, being captured and held prisoner in France and eventually escaping, Baermann found himself appointed to an orchestral position in the court at Munich at the age of twenty.
Baermann’s career straddled the time period where the musical profession was transitioning from flourishing only in the courts of nobles into public performances given with a cost of admission. As both a member of the Munich court orchestra (a position he held until his retirement in 1834) and a touring soloist, Baermann balanced these two professional options well. It was while on tour that he met many of the great composers of his time and inspired several of the great works for clarinet that came out of the nineteenth century.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a thorough examination of the role played by Heinrich Joseph Baermann in the evolution and development of the clarinet during the 19th century. Additionally, I will explore Baermann’s professional collaborations with those leading composers of the 19th century that wrote new and innovative works for the modern clarinet, with considerations regarding future 20th century trends.
While touring in Darmstadt in 1811, for instance, Heinrich Baermann met Carl Maria Von Weber (1786-1826), one of the most significant composers of the romantic era. Weber was so impressed by the smooth tone Baermann was able to produce on his instrument that composer and performer began touring together, and within a year Weber had composed four new works for the solo clarinet. In letters written later, Weber attributed much of his early fame to the performances of these works by Baermann. Other composers inspired by Baermann include Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864). Like most instrumental virtuosi throughout history, Baermann’s influence on these works is lost in the shadows of these great composers. To this day, most musicians know that Weber wrote exquisite music for clarinet, but not many know that these four famous pieces exist because of inspiration that was provided by Heinrich Baermann.
What was also occurring during Baermann’s professional career was the development of the clarinet itself. Prior to the beginning of the 19th century, the clarinet was commonly incorporated in orchestras, but rarely appreciated as a solo instrument or written into chamber music due to its volatility of tone and relative youth as compared to other wind instruments at the time. The changes and technological advances in the design of the instrument were many in the first part of the 19th century and Baermann utilized them to his advantage to set a new precedent for warmth of tone and range of dynamics on the instrument; a precedent that’s still quite relevant today.
Rasmussen, Audrey, "The Evolution of the Modern Clarinet: 1800-1850" (2011). Senior Theses. Paper 1.