A Bit of Hummel Again
Since I was recently wittering on about trumpets I thought I’d share again my favourite bit from my favourite trumpet work. It’s the central Andante movement of a Trumpet Concerto by Johann Nepomuk Hummel which was written in 1803 and was one of the first major works to be composed for the (then) recently-invented keyed trumpet. The piece was originally written in E major, but is often performed nowadays in E-flat major, as in this recording, which makes the fingering less difficult on modern E-flat and B-flat trumpets.
In his own lifetime Hummel was every bit as famous as Haydn and Beethoven; he was a pallbearer at the latter’s funeral, in fact. He died in 1837 with his musical reputation apparently secure, but was quickly forgotten. Always a bit overshadowed by Mozart, when the romantic era dawned Hummel’s classical style was considered extremely old-fashioned. It’s just another illustration of a fact that applies not only in music but also in many different spheres of activity: popularity in one’s own lifetime is by no means certain to turn into renown thereafter.
I have posted this piece of music before but listening to it today something struck me that hadn’t done so before, namely that parts of the writing for strings in this movement are very reminiscent of the second (Andante) movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major (known to many as the “Elvira Madigan” music).
I don’t usually like the sound of the classical trumpet that much- I prefer the broader and more expressive way the instrument is used in Jazz, whether it’s the brassy brilliance of Dizzy Gillespie or the moody melancholia of Miles Davis – but this piece is really lovely, especially when played with beautiful clarity by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth.