Why two bass clarinets?
Stephen Bates answers:
"The Stephen Bates Quartet is comprised of two soprano clarinets and two bass clarinets. The unusual choice of a second bass clarinet is because the voice that it occupies is like that of the viola in a string quartet, and the upper range of the bass clarinet has a distinctly alto-like quality, whereas that of a regular clarinet will sound more soprano-like. The upper range of the bass clarinet was used extensively by Wagner in his operas and has a powerful vocal beauty that we feel enhances the sound of the ensemble.
The creation of this ensemble allows us to play works written for orchestra, string quartet, and piano which have been transcribed and arranged by various composers for our quartet. This allows us to greatly expand our repertoire. In addition, we perform some pieces written specifically for this group.
Being a bass clarinetist myself, I always dreamed of forming an ensemble like this, particularly for the purpose of playing the music of Bach. The pipe organ has a clarinet stop, and when we play a fugue by Bach written for keyboard, the resultant sound can be very organ-like, due to the addition of a second bass clarinet.
Performances since our formation have been richly rewarding both musically and personally.