The Forte clarinets are made in Czechoslovakia, but they are designed by Dr. (medical doctor) Omar Henderson, who lives in the USA (in Georgia). They make a wooden C clarinet which I have not tried. [Jun2011: Production had ceased before March 2010.]
The Forte has slightly more ergonomic register and throat-tone A and B-flat keys. Notice the Czech shape of the upper end of the register key.
I have really enjoyed owning and playing this instrument. Testimony of that is that I sold my golden years Buffet R-13, but kept the Forte. The original barrel is 63.92mm long, which is an excellent length for students playing in bands.
My main clarinet is now a Lyrique, but I must say that I very much like the warmer (perhaps hollower) sound of Forte. The Forte plays with a bit less resistance also (which is great for beginners). These two things are probably due to the 15mm bore.
Again, I am playing “dumb” when testing (uniformly loud and not lipping), so I play better in tune than this when I endeavor to play “smart.” The second test shows how different I can be on different days! This shows also why my tests can only be seen as approximations! The second test is with a Legere 4 Quebec reed and my Portnoy BP02 mouthpiece. The first test was probably with a different mouthpiece.
Other than great sound and intonation, the Forte clarinet has several nice features:
- Extremely sturdy key work, including somewhat easier to activate register key and throat A key.
- The right hand part of the bridge key is recessed, which makes it much less likely that beginning students will bend keys by improperly assembling the horn.
- The thumb rest is adjustable.
- There is a little mark on the back that shows you visually if the two keyed joints are in correct alignment. (A nice touch, but not really important.)
- The plastic seems heavier than some plastic horns.
I really enjoy the improvement in tone I get when playing this instrument with my new Ridenour barrel.
The bridge key will not so easily collide and cause bending with this recessed design. This is a good idea for students. Also there is a little divided icon that helps align the two joints. Mine is an early production model, so the icon was clumsily applied.
Note that the thumb rest is adjustable. I always put on a piece of surgical hose to pad the thumb rest.
The keys are seriously thick. They may be made of pot metal, but have an excellent durable shiny finish and they seem to be indestructible.
No problems using this in a marching band!
Such key work is typical of this Czech manufacturer.
The company who made the Forte is Amati. Omar Henderson sold rights to some features of the Forte clarinet to Amati, and we should expect to see some of these on Amati instruments.