Nicola Bulfone,  (Italian clarinetist) was born in Hässleholm (Sweden) in 1963. He studied clarinet at the Udine Conservatory under A. Pecile and passed his final exam with top marks.

From 1985 to 1988 he continued his music studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart under Prof. Ulf Rodenhäuser (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra), where he obtained an Advanced Diploma in Clarinet. Among other awards, in 1983 he won first prize at the International Music Competition in Stresa. He also attended Master Classes held by Karl Leister, Antony Pay and G. Garbarino (Accademia Chigiana, Siena).

C. Nielsen – Concerto for Clarinet op 57. Nicola Bulfone – clarinet, J. Mala – Vogtland Philharmonie.

He has played clarinet, bass clarinet and basset horn in a number of orchestras, among which: the Teatro alla Scala Orchestra, the Teatro G. Verdi Orchestra, Trieste, the San Remo Symphony Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Teatro San Carlo, Naples, the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese.

Verdi, Lovreglio – Fantasia da La traviata, Nicola Bulfone – clarinet, Chen Fu – pianoforte.

He has participated in various Music Festivals and Concert Seasons both as soloist and with several Chamber Music Ensembles (Paris St. Germain, Musica Viva Munich, Ludwigsburg, Milan, Venice Biennale, Ravello, Klagenfurt, Middelburg Holland, Horowitz Festival Europe, Nomus Novi Sad, Ljubljana, Rossini Festival Rügen, Rotte Mediterranee Algiers, Budapest, Bratislava, Mallorca, Mexico City, Sevilla, Oporto…)

He played as soloist with the Slovac Philharmonic Orchestra of Bratislava, the Rossini Festival Orchestra, the Udine Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra Sinfonica del Estado del Mexico, the Udine Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orquesta do Norte (Portugal), the Orchestra Sinfonica del Friuli – Venezia Giulia, the Sophia Philharmonic, the Bjalistok Philharmonia (Poland), the Rijeka Chamber Orchestra (Croatia), the Vogtland Philharmonie, the Krasnojarsk Orchestra (Russia), the Minsk Orchestra, and various chamber orchestras.

Niels Gade – Pezzi Fantastici n°2 3 4. Nicola Bulfone – clarinet, Chen Fu – pianoforte.

He has recorded for SWF, RAI, ORF, BR, SDR, Koper and Art Kanal. Many renowned composers have written solo pieces for him.

He was from 1994 until 2006 teaching clarinet at Gallarate Conservatory and in international master classes in Lucca, Tarvisio, Cividale, Chioggia, Gorizia, Ostrava (Chek Republic), Riga, Apollonia (Albania), Krasnojarsk (Russia), Shenyang and Dalian (China) . In 1997 he was a member of the jury at the Jeunesses Musicales International Clarinet Competition in Belgrade. He has recorded three CDs for the Agorà label containing music for two clarinets and orchestra and has made a first world recording of the concertos for clarinet and orchestra by Carlo Paessler.

A. De Braal – Three pieces, n° 1. Nicola Bulfone – clarinet, Nicoletta Sanzin – harp.

He was solo clarinet in the Udine Philharmonic Orchestra, in the Orchestra Sinfonica del Friuli Venezia Giulia and founder member of the Associazione Filarmonica del Friuli Venezia Giulia. He is professor in the Clarinet class of the Udine Conservatory.

He plays on a Wurlitzer Reform-Boehm clarinet.

Backofen – Duo Concertante for basethorn and harp. Nicola Bulfone – basethorn, Nicoletta Sanzin – harp.



   Since the time of the early classicism (Mannheim school) clarinet has been more represented in the symphony orchestra.

Clarinets in the symphony orchestra.

      Double wind instruments are usual for classicists (2 of each: flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets). In the scores, it sometimes refers to the B♭ clarinets, and sometimes to A, depending on whether the composition is with flat or sharp keys. Today, if necessary, it is played in transposition (see the chapter on this.)

     Romantics increase the orchestra to “triple” or “quadruple”, so that, apart from two B clarinets (or A),  the bass-clarinet and possibly the Es clarinet are included. The first clarinetists in the orchestra is often entrusted with expressive, technically difficult and responsible solo parts.

   In the military wind band clarinets are present in larger numbers in various sizes, because there they usually have the main melody (like the violin in the symphony orchestra).

Clarinets in the military wind band.

       In chamber music, where the clarinet takes part, the most important is wind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon), then the wind trio (oboe, clarinet, bassoon). There are different settings: for example, Mozart, Brahms and Reger wrote a quintet for clarinet and string quartet, and Brahms trio for clarinet, cello and piano, Beethoven has a septet for clarinet, horn, bassoon and string quartet, Schubert – octet for the same three wind instruments and string quintet. French composer Florent Schmitt has even Sextet for clarinet (one in Es, two in B, alto in Es, bass and contrabass clarinet).

      Of course, the clarinet is also used for solo performances with the orchestra in concerts and other similar pieces as well as accompanied by the piano (Sonatas, various pieces).

Taken from my book 
I Am Studying Clarinet IV


  Every clarinet player who wants to be a music professional must know the characteristics of the musical styles of different periods (epochs). He also needs to know the composers who created in a given time and their styles of writing.

        Surely it is unacceptable to play Mozart as Weber is played, or  for example,  Debussy  as Stamitz.

   It is therefore essential that you now read and study the history of music, music theory and harmony as much as possible. And particularly: listen to good performance of the work from different periods – at concerts, on radio or TV, records, CDs or cassettes.

       Listen, and think and analyze. Only in this way, your interpretation may be stylistically correct, ie. in the spirit of the author and time when the composition was made.

Taken from my book
I Am Studying Clarinet IV


  The usual (but not required) arrangement of instruments in the symphony orchestra is presented here: in front of the conductor sit strings, behind players of wooden wind instruments and horns, and in the last row brass and percussion instrument players. Harp and piano may usually be found on the side.

     There may be somewhat different arrangements: for example, the second violins can be placed on the right of the conductor, the violas and cellos in front of him, or: all the woodwind instruments in one row, and all the metal instruments behind them, and so on.

     Also, in the opera where the orchestra is located in an alcove in front of the stage, the arrangement may be slightly different due to limited space.

Arrangement of musicians in the orchestra

   In this drawing the names of instruments are marked in Italian abbreviations, which are used in the orchestra scores:

Arp. = harp
V. I =  first violins
V. II = second violins
Vle. = violas
Vc. = cellos
Cb. = double basses
Fl. = flutes
Fl. picc. = piccolo flute
Ob. = oboes
C. ingl. = English horn
Cl. b. = bass clarinet
Cl. = clarinets
Cor. = horns
Tr. = trumpets
Trbn. = trombones
Tb. = tube
Pf. = piano


*  You will notice that clarinetists sometimes have another clarinet on the music desk in front of them. This means that they take turns in playing on the B, A or Es clarinets according to the requirements of the composition.

Taken from my book
I Am Studying Clarinet IV


   In the history of music, each period has its specific characteristics — its style by which it is recognized. A brilliant creators — composers, writing in the style of the time, gave their personal mark to it with their works, ie. they achieved their personal style. Therefore, it is said that the style of the music is the way of music opinion of some period or an individual in it.

     We will start a brief overview of characteristics of music periods with the Baroque music period.

  The Baroque period (17th century and the beginning of the 18th) saw a flourishing of instrumental music for the first time.

      In fine arts and architecture the Baroque art is characterized by brightness and greatness, lots of decorations and restless, intertwined lines, contrasts of light and dark. Similar characteristics can be noticed in the music of that period: it is full of ornaments (decorations), independent melodic voices sound simultaneously (polyphony), contrasts f and p are sharp (without crescendo and decrescendo), and a  rhythm is in constant motion. The most important Baroque composers are Bach and Handel.

       Since the clarinet had been constructed around 1700 there was no any literature for it in the Baroque period. However, the appropriate adaptation of compositions from this period can be found. (see the collection of R. Lazić: Great masters of the clarinet I–VI).

   In the Classicism (second half of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century) intellect prevails over sensibility. The heavy and ornate Baroque gives way to classic lightness, clarity and regularity in melody, rhythm and form. Leading melody is distinguished from the chord accompaniment. At this time the first concerts for the clarinet were created. The most important representatives of the Classicism are Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, but the last one largely indicates Romanticism.

     Classical music is played extremely precise, smooth and stylish, with narrower — more humble tone. The Classicism does not allow any exaggeration — dynamic,  agogic, or emotional.

  In the Romantic period (19th century) fantasy and sensibility prevail, opposite to classical restraint. Creators perceive themselves, retreat into a world of imagination, turn to the legendary past, describe the beauty of nature. Melody becomes wider, more melodious, colored with chromatics and dynamic contrasts.

    Instrumental virtuosity is flourishing, and many concerts are written for the clarinet. Representatives of the early Romanticism of the first half of the 19th century are Weber, Schubert, Rossini, Spohr, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn.

      In the late Romantic period composers are inspired for their works by the contents of the  literature, visual art or nature (so-called program music). In the melody and harmony, there is more cromatics and dissonances, as expression of emphasized emotion. German composers Liszt, Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Reger and Strauss, French Berlioz and Frank, and Italian (opera!) Verdi and Puccini belong to this period.

    So-called national schools, primarily Russian (Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky—Korsakov) and Czech (Smetana, Dvořák) also belong to the Romanticism. These composers like to use colorful elements of musical folklore of their people.

    Romantic music allows a perfomer far greater freedom of expression, greater personal empathy in interpreting the work. It is played with a “fuller” tone and more emotions, scale of performer’s feelings enables a far wider range of dynamic shading and agogic.

  The Impressionism (late 19th and the beginning of the 20th century) got its name from the word impression, meaning the effect produced by impressing. Music follows the painting (art): impressions from nature are described, and are experienced in a special, new way, with a new understanding of sound colors. A melody is neglected — it is often in fragments, with a preference for tonal color, harmony and usually complex rhythm. The most important representatives are French: Debussy and Ravel.

      This style requires a vivid imagination of a performer, the ultimate sophistication, the tendency towards the feeling of color and its finest nuances. The performer with his interpretation and good taste paints and evokes a certain mood — an atmosphere (impression) suggested by the title of a composition. For all this it is necessary that the performer has good technique and plays with ease.

   20th—century music reflects the spirit and tempo of life of our time as well as its contradictions. Although its general characteristics may be indicated as stressed role of rhythm, free and jumpy melodies, dissonant harmony —  there are also various parallel musical styles  in the 20th century.

        The Expressionism (Schoenberg, Berg) gives priority to extreme excitement and sharpest dissonances, denying tradition (leaving the tonality). The Neo-classicism (Stravinsky, Hindemith, Prokofiev) returns to the classical ideals of harmony and balance, but in a new, modern sound attire, while Bartók is inspired with folklore of his (Hungarian) people.

        The compositions of the 20th century place new demands on the perfomer: Different effects and new opportunities of playing the clarinet are often used. (glissando — ie. Sliding from tone to tone; frulato — ie. Flickering with the tongue when pronouncing the voice “rrr …”; rough accents, polyphonic playing — which is achieved by a combination of special grifoes, etc..). All this requires technically well-trained musicians.

Taken from my book
I Am Studying Clarinet IV