In the early eighteenth century, fourteen year-old Nicolo lost his entire family to malaria. One of his meager possessions, however, is a clarinet. Due to a combination of magic and skill, Nicolo plays quite fluently from the start. He travels to Venice, where he must disguise himself as a girl to be accepted into the famed orchestra at the Ospedale orphanage, attracting the attention of Antonio Vivaldi. At the time, the clarinet was a new, exotic instrument. After hearing Nicolo play, Vivaldi changes the composition of his newest concerto to incorporate parts for the clarinet.
Vivaldi did write music for clarinets around 1715, the year the story is set. Those concertos are some of the earliest compositions known to feature clarinets. In the novel, author Nicholas Christopher includes a brief history of clarinets prior to 1715 that well describes the kind of instrument Nicolo would have played. Below is a recording of Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 Oboes and 2 Clarinets RV 559, using, of course, modern clarinets.
-Diane Colson, currently reading Fake ID by Lamar Giles
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