IWAN MÜLLER (1786 - 1854)
Nowadays the name of the clarinet virtuoso and composer Iwan Muller, who was born in 1786 in Reval (now Tallinn) and died in 1854 in Buckeburg, has disappeared from concert programmes, yet his Studies are very familiar to budding clarinettists. His own musico-historical importance lies in the fact that, through the invention of his clarinette omnitonique, he succeeded in developing the musical possibilities of the somewhat limited instruments of Mozartʼs age into the modern concert clarinet.
Nothing is known about Mullerʼs childhood and youth. What is certain is that, even before his 20th birthday, he was a clarinettist in the court orchestra of the tsar of Russia in St Petersburg. Even at that time he was devoting himself to improving the construction of the clarinet. The breakthrough for him came with the introduction of a new key mechanism and the expansion of the number of keys on the instrument to thirteen. Armed with this new instrument in 1808/9 he set out on a tour which took him to Berlin, Leipzig and Vienna. In Vienna he found in Philipp Jacob Riotte (1776–1856) a composer who wrote for him a Clarinet Concerto which revealed for the first time the possibilities of the Muller clarinet. Leading clarinet virtuosi such as Heinrich Baermann (1784–1847) and Johann Simon Hermstedt (1778–1846) recognized immediately the forward-looking character of Mullerʼs innovations and had similar instruments made for themselves. It was for such instruments that the clarinet concertos of Weber and Spohr were written—concertos which are considered substantial works even today.
Iwan Muller went to Paris where he founded a clarinet factory. The year 1812 was a fateful one for him, when a prestigious commission from the Paris Conservatoire to introduce there his ʻsimple systemʼ clarinette omnitonique was rejected. As a result Mullerʼs factory went into receivership and he began a career as a travelling virtuoso, which took him through all of Europe and during which he constantly promoted his new clarinet. This new instrument gradually received wider recognition, enabling Muller to publish a clarinet school for the ʻnew clarinetʼ in 1825. In the winter of 1845/46, together with Georg Wilhelm Heckel (the inventor of the heckelphone), he manufactured a set of sample clarinets which incorporated his life-long experiences. He spent his remaining years in Buckeburg.