Ivan Müller, sometimes spelled Iwan Mueller (1786
1854), was a clarinetist, composer and inventor who at
the beginning of the 19th century was responsible for a
major step forward in the development of the clarinet,
the air-tight pad.
Müller was born in Reval (present-day Tallinn), at that
time a city with a strong Baltic German community in
the Governorate of Estonia, part of the Russian Empire.
He became a chamber musician in Saint Petersburg before
he was twenty. At the same time, he was constantly
striving to improve the clarinet, with new types of
keywork. At the time, the standard clarinet used flat
brass plates covered in soft leather to cover the
toneholes. Since these leaked air, the number of them
had to be kept to a minimum, which meant that notes
outside of the main scale of the clarinet (accidentals)
had to be obtained by complicated fingerings which were
difficult to play quickly and rarely were in tune.
Clarinets would have five or six keys, the bare minimum
to obtain an acceptable chromatic scale.
Müller's solution was the stuffed pad, originally made
of kid leather stuffed with felt. These pads would
"bulge", such that in combination with countersunk tone
holes, would close the keyholes sufficiently tight to
permit the use of an increased number of keys making
the "clarinette omnitonique" possible.
In addition to the fingering system and felt pads,
Müller is also known as the invertor of metal ligature
(that replaced twine, string and wire, widely used in
the past and still used today in German-speaking
regions), which are used today in almost all
single-reeded woodwind instruments.
Müller went on to work in Dresden, Berlin and Leipzig,
where he specialised in the basset-horn, a type of
In 1809, Müller performed to great acclaim on a
clarinet made to his own specifications. Müller moved
to Paris, got a wealthy patron in the form of (Mr.)
Marie-Pierre Petit, and started mass-producing
In 1812, Müller presented his new 13-key clarinet with
air-tight pads to the Paris Conservatoire, but they
weren't impressed. Nevertheless, Müller's new clarinet
with fully chromatic range became popular and became
the standard clarinet for much of the 19th century. It
was further developed into the Öhler system, the
prevalent system in Germany today. He was also, before
the famous Hyacinthe Klosé, principal clarinet at the
Théātre Italien in Paris.
Although this work was originally written for Bb
Clarinets (2) & Orchestra, I created this arrangement
for Flute & Concert (Pedal) Harp.