Like the clarinet, the basset horn is a transposing instrument, its music being written a fifth higher than the actual sounds. The treble clef is used in notation for all but the lowest register. The technical capabilities of the basset horn are the same as for the clarinet, except that the extra low notes from A to F (actual sounds) can only be intoned slowly and staccato; the notes of the upper register being better represented in the clarinet are seldom used in orchestral music.
The tone of the basset horn is extremely reedy and rich, especially in the medium and low registers; the tone colour is similar to that of the clarinet without its brilliancy; it is mellow and sensuous, but slightly sombre, and therefore well adapted for music of an elegiac funereal character.
The basset horn flourished mainly in Germany, where at the end of the 18th century it was the favourite solo instrument of many celebrated instrumentalists, such as Czerny, David, Lotz, Springer, &c. Among the great masters, Mozart seems to have been foremost in his appreciation of this beautiful instrument. In his Requiem, the reed family is represented by two basset horns having independent parts, and two bassoons. Mozart has also used the instrument with great effect in his opera La Clemenza di Tito, where he has written a fine obbligato for it in the aria "Non piu di Flori"; in Zauberflöte; and in chamber music, viz. short adagio for two basset horns and bassoon, and another for two clarinets and three basset horns (Series 10 of Breitkopf & Härtel's complete edition). Beethoven employed it in his Prometheus overture. Mendelssohn used it in military music, and in two concerted pieces for clarinet and basset horn with pianoforte accompaniment, in F and D min., opp. 113 and 114, dedicated to Heinrich and Carl Bärmann.
The archetypes of the basset horn are the same as those of the clarinet (q.v.). The basset horn was the outcome of the desire, prevailing during the 16th and 17th centuries, to obtain complete families of instruments to play in concert. The invention of the basset horn in 1770 is attributed to a clarinet maker of Passau, named Horn, whose name was given to the instrument; by a misnomer, the basset horn became known in Italy as corno di bassetto, and in France as cor de basset. In 1782, Theodore Lotz of Pressburg made some modifications in the instrument, which was further improved by two instrumentalists of Vienna, Anton and Johann Stadler, and finally in 1812 by Iwan Mueller, a famous clarinettist, who invented the alto clarinet in E♭ from the basset horn, by giving the latter a construction and fingering analogous to those of the clarinet in B♭, which he took as his model, instead of the clarinet in C.
See J. G. H. Backofen, Anweisung zur Klarinette, nebst einer kurzen Abhandlung über das Basset-Horn, with illustration, p. 37 (Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1803); Iwan Mueller, Anweisung zu der neuen Clarinette und der Clarinette-alto, nebst einigen Bemerkungen für Instrumentenmacher (Leipzig, Freidrich Hofmeister, 1826, with illustrations); Gottfried Weber, "Über Clarinette und Bassethorn," Cacilia, Band xi. pp. 35-37 (Mainz, 1834); Wilhelm Altenburg, Die Clarinette, ihre Entstehung und Entwickelung bis zur Jetztzeit in akustischer, technischer u. musikalischer Beziehung (Heilbronn, 1904), pp. 16-32; Good heliogravures of early basset horns in Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Instruments at the Royal Military Exhibition, London, 1890, compiled by Capt. C. R. Day (1891), pl. v.
BASSI, LAURA MARIA CATERINA (1711-1778), an Italian lady eminently distinguished for her learning, was born at Bologna in 1711. On account of her extraordinary attainments she received a doctor's degree, and was appointed professor in the philosophical college, where she delivered public lectures on experimental philosophy till the time of her death. She was elected member of many literary societies and carried on an extensive correspondence with the most eminent European men of letters. She was well acquainted with classical literature, as well as with that of France and Italy. In 1738 she married Giuseppe Verrati, a physician, and left several children. She died in 1778.
BASSI, UGO (1800-1849), Italian patriot, was born at Cento, and received his early education at Bologna. An unhappy love affair induced him to become a novice in the Barnabite order when eighteen years old. He repaired to Rome, where he led a life of study and devotion, and entered on his ministry in 1833. It was as a preacher that he became famous, his sermons attracting large crowds owing to their eloquence and genuine enthusiasm. He lived chiefly at Bologna, but travelled all over Italy preaching and tending the poor, so poor himself as to be sometimes almost starving. On the outbreak of the revolutionary movements in 1848, when Pope Pius IX. still appeared to be a Liberal and an Italian patriot, Bassi, filled with national enthusiasm, joined General Durando's papal force to protect the frontiers as army chaplain. His eloquence drew fresh recruits to the ranks, and he exercised great influence over the soldiers and people. When the pope discarded all connexion with the national movement, it was only Bassi who could restrain the Bolognese in their indignation. At Treviso, where he had followed Guidotti's volunteers against the Austrians, he received three wounds, delighted to shed his blood for Italy (12th of May, 1848). He was taken to Venice, and on his recovery he marched unarmed at the head of the volunteers in the fight at Mestre. After the pope's flight from Rome and the proclamation of the Roman republic, Bassi took part with Garibaldi's forces against the French troops sent to re-establish the temporal power. He exposed his life many times while tending the wounded under fire, and when Garibaldi was forced to leave Rome with his volunteers the faithful monk followed him in his wanderings to San Marino. When the legion broke up Garibaldi escaped, but Bassi and a fellow-Garibaldian, Count Livraghi, after endless hardships, were captured near Comacchio. On being brought before the papal governor, Bassi said: "I am guilty of no crime save that of being an Italian like yourself. I have risked my life for Italy, and your duty is to do good to those who have suffered for her." The governor would have freed the prisoners; but he did not dare, and gave them over to an Austrian officer. They were escorted to Bologna, falsely charged before a court martial with having been found with arms in their hands (Bassi had never borne arms at all), and shot on the 8th of August, 1849. Bassi is one of the most beautiful figures of the Italian revolution, a gentle unselfish soul, who, although unusually gifted and accomplished, had an almost childlike nature. His execution excited a feeling of horror all over Italy.
Countess Martinengo gives a charming sketch of his life in her Italian Characters (2nd ed., London, 1901); see also Zironi, Vita del Padre Ugo Bassi (Bologna, 1879); F. Venosta, "Ugo Bassi, Martire di Bologna," in the Pantheon dei Martiri Italiani (Milan, 1863).
BASSIANUS, JOANNES, Italian jurist of the 12th century. Little is known of his origin, but he is said by Corolus de Tocco to have been a native of Cremona. He was a professor in the law school of Bologna, the pupil of Bulgarus (q.v.), and the master of Azo (q.v.). The most important of his writings which have been preserved in his Summary on the Authentica, which Savigny regarded as one of the most precious works of the school of the Gloss-writers. Joannes, as he is generally termed, was remarkable for his talent in inventing ingenious forms for explaining his ideas with greater precision, and perhaps his most celebrated work is his "Law-Tree," which he entitled Arbor Arborum, and which has been the subject of numerous commentaries. The work presents a tree, upon the branches of which the various kinds of actions are arranged after the manner of fruit. The civil actions, or actiones stricti juris, being forty-eight in number, are arranged on one side, whilst the equitable or praetorian actions, in number one hundred and twenty-one, are arranged on the other side. A further scientific division of actions was made by him under twelve heads, and by an ingenious system of notation the student was enabled to class at once each of the civil or praetorian actions, as the case might be, under its proper head in the scientific division. By the side of the tree a few glosses were added by Joannes to explain and justify his classification. His Lectures on the Pandects and the Code, which were collected by his pupil Nicolaus Furiosus, have unfortunately perished.
- Cantor Lectures on Musical Instruments, their Construction and Capabilities, by A. J. Hipkins, p. 15; Henri Lavoix, Histoire de l'instrumentation depuis le seizième siècle jusqu'à nos jours (Paris, 1878), on p. 123 the date is given as 1777.